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We Sat Down With the Establishment Politician Trying to Win Back Greece

Kyriakos Mitsotakis could be the next prime minister of Greece if his party wins this Sunday. That would go against Europe’s drift toward populist

by Andrew Potter
Jul 4 2019, 10:52am

ATHENS — Greece is poised to do something increasingly rare in Europe these days: elect an establishment politician as their next prime minister.

Despite presiding over a fragile economic recovery, Greeks appear to have grown tired of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party, and are looking to shake things up during this Sunday’s legislative election.

All signs indicate Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the centre-right New Democracy party will come out on top.

If those projections hold and Greeks end up choosing the 51-year-old Mitsotakis on Sunday, voters won’t just be voting for a fresh face, they’ll be ushering in a return to establishment politics.

Unlike Tsipras, who rose to power on a wave of anti-establishment sentiment and anger towards the EU, Mitsotakis represents Greek political aristocracy. His father Konstantinos was Prime Minister between 1990 and 1993.

“I think society realized that electing populists into power is not a solution to underlying economic problems. So essentially what is happening is the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction,” he told VICE founder Shane Smith during an interview at the New Democracy party headquarters in Athens.

He’s not shy about his establishment credentials either. One of Mitsotakis’s main campaign planks is convincing Greeks that his financial stewardship can spur renewed confidence in the Greek economy, and lead the lenders who bailed out its economy to the tune of 240 billion euros over eight years to ease their strict requirement that Greece maintain a budget surplus of 3.5 percent.

“The key challenge is to restore high growth rates,” Mitsotakis said. “If the economy grows faster, our creditors are going to be happy because the debt is going to be repaid more easily.”

And to get the economy growing at a faster rate Mitsotakis is appealing to young Greeks who left the country during the financial crisis to return.

“We have to really convince everyone that the crisis really is over and that the long term potential of the country is very, very positive,” he said.

This segment originally aired July 3, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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