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Elections to the Hellenic Parliament (Vouli)
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

Greece, which held a parliamentary election on Sunday, May 21, 2023, returns to the polls on Sunday, June 25, 2023 for another parliamentary election, as no party won an overall majority in the May election. An overview of the proportional representation system used to choose members of the country's unicameral Parliament - the Vouli - is presented here.

Nationwide and constituency-level results are available here (and also in CSV format) for the following Hellenic Parliament elections:

      May 21, 2023      
      July 7, 2019      
      January 25 and September 20, 2015      
      May 6 and June 17, 2012      
      October 4, 2009      
      September 16, 2007      
      March 7, 2004      
      April 9, 2000      
      September 22, 1996      

The election statistics presented in this space come from results published by Greece's Ministry of the Interior, which has detailed May 2023 election results in Greek and English.

General Aspects of the Electoral System

The Hellenic Parliament - in Greek the Vouli ton Ellinon - is composed of 300 deputies directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term of office. A total of twelve seats are allocated on a nationwide basis, while the remaining 288 seats are filled in fifty-six single- and multi-member constituencies. Nonetheless, members of Parliament represent the nation.

Political parties, party coalitions and independents may present lists of candidates. Electors cast a vote for one to five candidates on a constituency list, depending on the number of seats; voting is compulsory until the age of 70. Parliamentary seats are apportioned by means of a complex system of "reinforced" proportional representation, which has been modified several times since the restoration of democracy in 1974, following seven years of military dictatorship.

In the four general elections held from 1993 to 2004, multi-member constituency seats were initially allocated in each constituency by the Hagenbach-Bischoff method, in which an electoral quota was calculated by dividing the total number of valid votes by the number of seats to be allocated plus one. The number of votes polled by each party was then divided by the electoral quota, and the result, disregarding fractions, was the number of seats allocated to the party. Single-member seats were filled by the plurality or first-past-the-post method, in which the candidate obtaining the largest number of votes in the constituency was elected to office.

The constituencies were then grouped into thirteen electoral regions, to distribute any remaining unallocated seats after the application of the Hagenbach-Bischoff rule. Party list votes were pooled at the electoral region level along with unfilled seats, which were then distributed in each region by the Hare method. Under this procedure, a new electoral quota was calculated by dividing the total number of valid votes by the number of available seats. The number of votes won by each party was divided by the quota, and the result, disregarding fractions, was the number of seats obtained by the party.

Any remaining unallocated seats were subsequently filled in two stages. First, the party with the largest vote total at the national level obtained all unallocated seats in constituencies where it polled the largest number of votes. Then, the remaining seats were distributed on a nationwide basis among parties (but not coalitions) by the Hare method, disregarding fractions; if there remained unallocated seats following this apportionment, these were awarded as well to the party with the largest vote total in the entire country. Finally, the twelve nationwide seats were allocated according to the largest average method, also known as the D'Hondt rule.

In order to participate in the distribution of Vouli seats, a list had to obtain at least three percent of the vote at the national level, in whose case it was entitled to at least seventy percent of the seats it would have won on the basis of its nationwide share of the vote.

The 2007 and 2009 general elections were held under a new electoral law introduced in 2004, which automatically grants the winning party a majority premium of 40 seats, while the remaining 260 seats are distributed by proportional representation (PR). Under the terms of a 2008 amendment to the electoral law, the majority premium increased to fifty seats in 2012, leaving 250 seats to be allocated by PR. However, further amendments in 2016 and 2020 first eliminated and then reinstated the majority premium, but as neither of these amendments secured a two-thirds majority, their implementation was delayed for one election cycle. As a result, the majority premium remained in place for the 2019 general election, was phased out for the 2023 general election - in which all 300 Vouli seats will be distributed by PR - and will be back in place for the next general election, barring further amendments.

Allocation of Constituency Seats in the Hellenic Parliament (Vouli)

The Political Parties

Greece's present-day political party system traces its origins to the year 1974, when the military dictatorship that had ruled the country since 1967 instigated a coup in Cyprus - whose population, while largely Greek, also included a sizable Turkish minority. However, instead of leading to the union of the Mediterranean island nation with Greece, the coup triggered a Turkish invasion of Cyprus and its subsequent de facto partition - a division that persists to this day. As a result, Greece's disgraced military junta collapsed, and former prime minister Konstatinos Karamanlis - who had been living in self-imposed exile in Paris since 1963 - was summoned back to head an interim administration which promptly moved to restore parliamentary democracy and avert an armed conflict with Turkey. Karamanlis also established the conservative New Democracy (ND) as a successor of his old party, the National Radical Union.

In the 1974 parliamentary election - Greece's first free elections in a decade - ND won a landslide victory, with the Center Union-New Forces trailing in second place. Although the militantly leftist Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) came in a distant third place, by 1977 PASOK had emerged as the major challenger to ND, well ahead of both the rapidly declining Center Union and the Greek Communist Party (KKE), which had been legalized in 1974. Nonetheless, New Democracy remained in power with a reduced but large parliamentary majority, and Karamanlis continued in office until 1980, when he was elected President of the Republic (the monarchy having been abolished in a 1974 referendum). Georgios Rallis succeeded Karamanlis as leader of ND and prime minister. However, in the 1981 general election PASOK - which had moderated somewhat its leftist stance - scored a decisive victory, and party leader Andreas Papandreou replaced Rallis as head of government.

PASOK was returned to office in 1985, but the party lost its parliamentary majority in the June 1989 legislative election, in which New Democracy emerged as the largest single party but fell six seats short of an absolute majority. Despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum, ND and the Communist Party-led Coalition of the Left and Progress (SYN) - which held the balance of power in Parliament - set aside their ideological differences and formed an interim coalition government headed by Tzanis Tzannetakis, a New Democracy backbencher. However, a fresh parliamentary election held the following November brought few changes: once more, New Democracy fell short of an overall majority, this time by three seats. Consequently, Greece's political leaders agreed to the formation of an all-party government. The interim administration, headed by Xenophon Zolotas, a former governor of the Bank of Greece, ruled the country until April 1990, when ND won exactly half the Vouli seats in the third legislative election held in less than one year. Following the election, New Democracy party leader Constantinos Mitsotakis formed a government with the help of a center-right parliamentarian who subsequently joined the ruling party.

ND remained in office until 1993, when the aging Andreas Papandreou staged a political comeback and led PASOK to a clear victory in an early parliamentary election. Political Spring (POLAN), a New Democracy breakaway party headed by former foreign minister Antonis Samaras, came in third place, slightly ahead of the Communist Party, while the Coalition of the Left and Progress (from which KKE separated in 1991) lost its parliamentary representation. However, ill health forced Papandreou to step down as prime minister in January 1996; he died the following June. Konstatinos ("Kostas") Simitis, who had served as a minister in Papandreou's cabinets, succeeded him as head of government and subsequently as party leader. In an early election held in September of that year, PASOK prevailed over ND by a narrow margin but retained a comfortable parliamentary majority under the electoral system, which favors the winning party. Although KKE emerged as the third largest party, the Coalition of the Left and Progress came right behind the Communist Party and secured parliamentary representation along with the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), led by Dimitris Tsovolas, who had been finance minister under Papandreou. Meanwhile, Political Spring fell just below the three percent threshold and lost all of its Vouli seats.

In the April 2000 general election, called six months ahead of schedule, PASOK won a third consecutive victory over New Democracy, albeit by a very narrow margin. Nonetheless, the electoral system allowed the ruling party to retain a working majority in Parliament. The Communist Party vote remained stable, while both the Coalition of the Left and Progress and DHKKI lost ground in the election, with the latter losing its legislative representation.

In January 2004, Prime Minister Simitis announced he would not seek re-election as head of government, and stepped down as leader of PASOK; Georgios Papandreou - the son of former prime minister Andreas Papandreou - succeeded Simitis as party leader. However, New Democracy, led since 1997 by Konstantinos ("Kostas") Karamanlis - the nephew of former prime minister and president Konstantinos Karamanlis - won the March 2004 parliamentary election and Karamanlis became prime minister, bringing eleven years of PASOK rule to an end. In the election, both KKE and the Coalition of the Left, the Movements and the Ecology (formerly the Coalition of the Left and Progress) made modest gains, while DHKKI and the rightist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) failed to win seats in Parliament.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Karamanlis, New Democracy defeated PASOK in an early parliamentary election held in September 2007, but the new electoral law reduced the ruling party's parliamentary majority to just four seats. Both major parties lost ground in the election, while KKE and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA; previously the Coalition of the Left, the Movements and the Ecology) made significant gains, and LAOS secured parliamentary representation.

In due course, Prime Minister Karamanlis sought a fresh mandate to deal with Greece's economic problems and called another early general election, held two years ahead of schedule in October 2009. However, New Democracy went on to score its worst-ever result in the election, while PASOK won a landslide victory under the leadership of Georgios Papandreou, who replaced Karamanlis as head of government. Both KKE and SYRIZA suffered minor setbacks in the election, losing one seat apiece, but LAOS increased its representation in the Vouli and became the country's fourth-largest party. Meanwhile, the fledging Ecologist Greens more than doubled their share of the vote but won no Vouli seats, as they fell short of the three percent parliamentary representation threshold by less than half a percentage point.

As it was, Greece's economic problems continued to worsen: the worldwide financial crisis hit Greece severely, leaving the country with an enormous debt burden. By early 2010 there was a distinct possibility Greece would default on its debt payments, and the other eurozone member nations, concerned that the Greek debt crisis could spread to other countries, stepped in with an unprecedented $144 billion loan. However, in exchange for the bailout package, Greece had to implement drastic spending cuts as well as tax increases, which not only resulted in frequent strikes and demonstrations, but also left Prime Minister Papandreou in an increasingly untenable position.

Moreover, by 2011 it became clear the original rescue package would not be sufficient to prevent Greece from defaulting on its financial obligations. However, in November 2011 Prime Minister Papandreou triggered a financial and political crisis when he called for a referendum on a follow-up bailout package, and he was forced to not only drop the referendum plan altogether, but leave office as well. ND, PASOK and LAOS subsequently agreed to form an interim coalition government headed by Lucas Papademos, an economist and former vice-president of the European Central Bank. In February 2012, Papademos' government agreed to a second, $170 billion international bailout deal, which restructured Greece's debt but required further austerity measures.

Allocation of Seats in the 2007 Vouli Election

In the 2007 Vouli election, five parties, namely New Democracy (ND), the Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) received at least three percent of all valid votes cast, and were thus entitled to participate in the proportional allocation of 260 seats at the national level; between themselves, these parties accumulated a total of 6,938,918 votes. None of the other parties that participated in the election reached the three percent threshold; therefore, these were excluded from the apportionment process.

The next step was to calculate the number of PR seats each one of the five qualifying parties was entitled to receive. The results were as follows:


x 260 = 112.221320 for ND

x 260 = 102.190650 for PASOK

x 260 = 21.873007 for KKE

x 260 = 13.530389 for SYRIZA

x 260 = 10.184634 for LAOS

At this point, the allocation of Vouli seats stood as follows:

   List    Seats   
   ND    112   
   PASOK    102   
   KKE    21   
   SYRIZA    13   
   LAOS    10   
   Total    258   

However, two of the 260 PR seats remained to be allocated. The highest decimal fractions were then determined, by sorting them in descending order, as shown below:

   List    Fraction   
   KKE    0.873007   
   SYRIZA    0.530389   
   ND    0.221320   
   PASOK    0.190650   
   LAOS    0.184634   

Since KKE and SYRIZA had the two largest fractions, one seat was allocated to each of these parties. This operation completed the allocation of PR seats at the national level in the following manner:

   List    Seats   
   ND    112   
   PASOK    102   
   KKE    22   
   SYRIZA    14   
   LAOS    10   
   Total    260   

Finally, the forty majority premium seats were awarded to ND - the nationwide popular vote winner - and the distribution of Vouli seats was as follows:

   List    Seats   
   ND    152   
   PASOK    102   
   KKE    22   
   SYRIZA    14   
   LAOS    10   
   Total    300   

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Last update: June 24, 2023.