Kyriakos Mitsotakis: The man who aspires to modernize Greece | International
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, re-elected this Sunday at the age of 55 as Prime Minister of Greece with more than 40% of the vote, grew up among the main protagonists of Greek politics drinking coffee in his kitchen. The Mitsotakis surname in Greece carries as much weight as that of the Kennedys in the United States. In fact, the comparison may fall short. His father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, was prime minister from 1990 to 1993. His sister Dora Bakoyannis—married name—was mayor of Athens during the 2004 Olympic Games and ministered several times. Bakoyannis's son and Kyriakos' nephew, Costas Bakoyannis, has been mayor of Athens since 2019. The prime minister-elect's great-uncle was Elefthérios Venizélos, the most prominent statesman of modern Greece, seven times prime minister, after whom the main airport of the country. In addition, a grandfather and a great-grandfather of Kyriakos Mitsotakis were members of the Greek Parliament.
The right wing of which he is the heir, both in the political and family sense, never played with ambiguity in its opposition to the dictatorship. His father was arrested during the military coup in 1967. The Mitsotakis then went into exile in Paris and did not return to Greece until 1973.
It could be said that Kulis—Kyriakos's family nickname—was born to be exactly what it is today. Precisely for this reason, he strives to show that his success depends more on his work than on the legacy of his dynasty. "Judge me by my resume, not by my name. I am more Kyriakos than Mitsotakis ”, he often repeats himself. Despite this, he also winks at the nostalgia of the most veteran sectors of New Democracy, the party he leads. At the rally to close the campaign, held on Friday in Syntagma Square in Athens, he stressed the importance of the same place where, as a child, he attended speeches by the two most prominent figures on the Hellenic right: the party's founder, Konstantinos Karamanlís, and former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, his father.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis represents the most liberal sector of New Democracy. In the primaries that he contested with Vangelis Meimarakis, he was a supporter of LGTBI rights and willing to address the immigration crisis with more social than repressive measures, in contrast to the party's traditional position. However, once at the head of the Government, he has not approved any of the pending LGBTI demands, such as equal marriage or adoption by same-sex couples. And he has toughened immigration policy even more through legislative reforms that restrict the right to asylum and through the generalization of direct returns.
A collaborator belonging to the prime minister's closest circle assures that it will be from now on, in the second legislature, when Mitsotakis can apply a more liberal and modern agenda, to the extent that this Sunday's result frees him from ties to the conservative sectors that he maintained during the first term to preserve internal balances.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis studied at the elite Athens College and at Harvard and Stanford Universities, where he obtained very good grades in Social Sciences, International Relations and Business Administration. He later worked as a financial analyst and bank executive.
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The digitization of the country
The elected president began his political career just 20 years ago. In 2013 he held his first portfolio, that of Minister of Administrative Reform and Electronic Government. He was widely criticized for executing massive layoffs in the Administration. Ten years later, one of his greatest achievements, recognized even by the opposition, is the digitization of the Administration to streamline bureaucracy, which in Greece is characterized as particularly tortuous and ineffective. Mitsotakis has insisted that he needs at least one more legislature to complete the reforms that have begun, not only digital, but also economic and structural.
In his first term, unemployment dropped from 18% (in 2019) to the current 11%. And sovereign debt fell from 206% of GDP to 171%. His supporters praise his management of the covid-19 crisis, while his detractors recall that Mitsotakis is benefiting from the fact that the former leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras (2015-2019) undertook all the cuts forced on him by the troika formed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The most critical also recall that during the pandemic crises and with the war in Ukraine, the European Union took a turn in its monetary austerity policy. That is to say, Mitsotakis had money to spend and Europe has not stopped him.
The main problems that Mitsotakis has faced have been the scandal of wiretapping of opposition leaders and the protests unleashed after the largest train accident in the country, registered on February 28, in which 57 people died, most of them youths. This catastrophe clashed with the image of modernization that Mitsotakis intended to convey. But his powerful communications team managed to spread the message that the only leader capable of remedying the deficiencies of the rail network is Mitsotakis. He has also been criticized for the violation of fundamental rights of his immigration policy, and for his management of forest fires.
During the electoral campaign for the previous elections, on May 21, a video that combines family images of the Mitsotakis with the tune of the popular series went viral on social networks succession, from the HBO channel. The comparison is forced, but there are also some similarities: when Kyriakos presented his candidacy for the party's primaries in 2016, his sister Dora did not support him. Although he also did not show his explicit support for Vangelis Meimarakis, his rival, the family outrage did not go unnoticed.
His relationship with his wife, Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki, a former Deutsche Bank executive and co-founder of a clothing brand, is atypical for Greek politics. They got married in 1997, but they separated and made their break public, something that is not usual for a Hellenic politician, even less in the conservative camp. They reconciled after several years and she has been by his side, along with his three children, throughout his career as prime minister.
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