Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the conservative New Democracy party who has presided over a period of economic stability and tough anti-migration policies in Greece, was sworn in on Monday for a second term as prime minister after a landslide victory that gave him a clear mandate for the next four years.
The result made clear that Greeks, who endured a decade-long financial crisis, were much less concerned with scandals, including accusations of the authorities’ spying on their own people, or disasters such as the fatal shipwreck of a boat carrying hundreds of migrants, than they were with Mr. Mitsotakis’s pledges to keep the country on the road of economic and political stability.
Mr. Mitsotakis, a supporter of Ukraine who has maintained good relations with the European Union, has also vowed to stand up to pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who also recently won re-election.
Here are some of the lessons from the results in Greece.
Tough migration policies are good politics
Greece, led by Mr. Mitsotakis, has done the European Union’s unpleasant work of blocking migrants from reaching the continent with hard-line policies and reception centers that critics equate to prisons. Voters appeared to reward him for the significant reduction of arrivals in the country since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015.
Revelations that the Greek Coast Guard has been illegally pushing back migrants by land and sea, and, more recently, questions about the Greek authorities’ fatal decision not to immediately come to the assistance of a ship this month that ultimately sank, killing hundreds off the coast, have infuriated migrant advocates.
But not Greek voters.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Mitsotakis noted that the number of migrant arrivals was down 90 percent, from more than a million nearly a decade ago, and Greeks appeared more than willing to stomach the harsh tactics he employed.
They apparently supported the patrols of the Aegean Sea and the extension of a European Union-subsidized fence along the country’s northern land border with Turkey, which Mr. Mitsotakis had linked to national defense. Mr. Erdogan, the Turkish leader, had sought to exert pressure and wrest concessions from the European Union by allowing migrants to cross the borders.
One opinion poll last week showed that seven in 10 Greeks were in favor of the fence, which the previous conservative administration had pledged to extend by some 22 miles, to about 87 miles, by the end of this year.
Spying isn’t a deal breaker
Spying on an opposition politicians does not generally go over well in Western democracies. So when it was revealed last August that Greece’s state intelligence service had been monitoring a prominent opposition leader, and subsequently journalists and others, analysts anticipated political fallout for Mr. Mitsotakis.
When use of the spyware Predator was found on some of the same devices, it seemed likely to explode into a full-blown scandal. Instead, Greek voters mostly shrugged.
The surveillance of Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the socialist Pasok party, and of several others, was never directly linked to Mr. Mitsotakis, who had assumed greater authority of the intelligence service but repeatedly denied any knowledge of the monitoring. Heads rolled. Close advisers to Mr. Mitsotakis, including his nephew, fell on swords. And the scandal blew over.
The reaction was endlessly frustrating for the leftist Syriza party, which sought to exploit the apparent espionage in part by trying, and failing, to to form an alliance of grievance with Mr. Androulakis and his Pasok party.
In the end, the spying claims ranked close to the bottom of voters’ concerns in opinion polls, while the economy, Greek-Turkish relations and concerns about the health care system topped the list.
It’s the economy, stupid
What Greeks did care about, and significantly more than anything else, was the economy and stability. After a decade-long financial crisis that erupted in 2010, Mr. Mitsotakis persuaded Greeks that the country had made enormous strides under his watch and that he deserved another four years to finish the job.
He had some good data to point to. Growth in Greece is twice the eurozone average. Wages and pensions have increased. Foreign investors have returned. Greek bonds, long at junk status, are now expected to be restored to investment grade, which will lower borrowing costs.
Greeks preferred this path of stability rather than returning to Syriza, the party that was in power when Greece nearly crashed out of the eurozone in 2015.
Speaking as preliminary results came in on Sunday night, Mr. Mitsotakis said he aimed to achieve more in a second term, to “transform” Greece and build a country with “more prosperity and more justice for all.”
Deep economic problems, including rising costs and questions of inequality, remain, but Mr. Mitsotakis convinced the vast majority of Greeks that the way to address them was to keep on his conservative government’s path.
The right wing rises in southern Europe
The end of the last decade was marked by intense anxiety in the European establishment about populist and nationalist parties eroding the European Union from within. Although that fear has mostly passed for now, conservatives are making significant inroads in the bloc’s southern flank.
In Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the hard-right Brothers of Italy party is firmly in control, although many of the worst fears of liberals have not come to fruition. In Spain, polls suggest that elections next month could bring the conservative People’s Party to power, most likely with the hard-right party Vox as a coalition partner, an alliance that until recently seemed out of the question.
And now in Greece, the landslide victory of Mr. Mitsotakis gives him a freer hand to impose his economic vision. But it also allows him to continue his crackdown on migrant arrivals, a policy that is detested by rights groups but is appreciated in Brussels, a reflection of just how much the status quo has shifted to the right on the issue.
Exhaustion with migration is surely an important driver of the shift, but so is an overall reassertion of national identities, if not outright nationalism, after years of campaigning against meddling by the European Union.
A Mitsotakis dynasty?
The return of Mr. Mitsotakis to power is not just a personal victory — it also elevates his family to something approaching dynasty status in Greek politics.
His father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, governed as a reformer as prime minister from 1990 to 1993 but left office as a divisive figure in a volatile period for Greek politics.
His sister, Dora Bakoyannis, was mayor of Athens and a former foreign minister, and her son, Kostas Bakoyannis, is currently the capital’s mayor. Another nephew, Grigoris Dimitriadis, was Mr. Mitsotakis’s point man for the state intelligence service but quit in the wake of the surveillance scandal.
The opposition sought to portray Mr. Mitsotakis as an arrogant, autocratic and out-of-touch elitist who was both a beneficiary and perpetrator of nepotism, but that did not seem to resonate with voters.
“I will be the prime minister of all Greeks,” Mr. Mitsotakis said on Sunday night after preliminary results rolled in. “I will remain committed to my national duty without tolerating any arrogant or conceited behavior.”