Greece votes on Sunday in a general election that promises to be the closest in more than a decade, with three main parties competing for seats in the 300-member parliament.
Outgoing prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of conservative New Democracy, former premier Alexis Tsipras of leftist Syriza and ex-European lawmaker Nikos Androulakis of the Socialists are aiming to lead their parties to victory.
During the last election in 2019, New Democracy unseated Syriza.
While Mitsotakis is heading into the election with opinion polls giving him a clear lead, the surveys also suggest that he is unlikely to garner a lead wide enough for an outright majority in parliament. This means that at least two of the parties will need to cooperate to form a government to avoid a fresh election by July.
Here is a look at the leaders of the main three parties.
Mitsotakis, 55, is seeking a second four-year term as prime minister on the strength of his record of economic growth, fiscal management and a robust foreign policy that includes a pair of key alliance deals with the US and France.
“We have much more experience now... to boldly move forward in order to carry out the changes that will make Greece a modern European country,” he said in a televised interview earlier in May.
A Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant, Mitsotakis has warned that the country needs a “strong hand at the helm” amid the war in Ukraine and other challenges, and that failure to re-elect his conservative New Democracy party will undermine Greece’s economic rebound after a near-decade debt crisis.
A scion of a Greek political dynasty dating to the late 19th century, Mitsotakis has long struggled to shake off his elitist image.
His father Constantine Mitsotakis was also prime minister three decades ago. His sister is former minister Dora Bakoyannis, the first woman mayor of Athens. The current Athens mayor, Costas Bakoyannis, is her son and Mitsotakis’ nephew.
Leader of the conservative New Democracy party since 2016, Mitsotakis is married to entrepreneur Mareva Grabowski, co-founder of the Zeus+Dione luxury clothing brand. They have three children.
Tsipras, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2019 during some of Greece’s rockiest crisis years, is asking voters for a second chance to show what his labour-friendly leftist Syriza party can truly do without the austerity shackles of EU-IMF supervision.
“Enough is enough,” the 48-year-old told a rally in Larissa, central Greece during the campaign hustings.
“Enough with profiteering, inequality, nepotism, indifference, arrogance, injustice,” he said, accusing Mitsotakis of showering billions of euros on political and family allies.
A sovereign debt crisis that began in 2009 plunged Greece into financial turmoil, with the country requiring three bail-outs from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, in return for severe austerity measures that upended the economy and impoverished many.
The first avowed atheist prime minister in deeply religious Greece and the youngest in over a century, Tsipras is broadly remembered as the anti-austerity radical who took on the country’s creditors and nearly crashed Greece out of the euro, before reversing course and accepting a third bail-out.
Greece ultimately exited its austerity constraints on Tsipras’s watch in 2018, and he has since pulled his party towards the centre to broaden its appeal.
The former Communist is also credited with untangling a 28-year diplomatic dispute with Greece’s northern neighbour, which was renamed North Macedonia in a landmark deal opposed by nationalists in both countries, including Mitsotakis.
Tsipras first appeared on the Greek political scene in the early 1990s at the tender age of 16 as an organiser of school sit-ins, sporting an Elvis-style ducktail.
Ironically, the prime minister whose education policies he was challenging was Mitsotakis’s father.
Tsipras rapidly rose through the ranks of his party, then called Synaspismos, after being handpicked as a fresh face to run for Athens mayor in 2006. Two years later, he was elected party leader.
He has two children with his high-school sweetheart Betty Baziana, an electronics engineer.
The head of Greek Socialist party Pasok-Kinal, 44-year-old Nikos Androulakis, had been seen by analysts as a potential coalition partner for Mitsotakis after his election as party chairman in 2021.
But chances of cooperation took a nosedive after Androulakis last year discovered that he had been under state surveillance shortly before becoming party leader.
A trained civil engineer and former party youth organiser, Androulakis was previously a two-term European Parliament lawmaker. He sat on the committee investigating the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
He was elected chairman in December 2021 after the sudden death of previous party leader Fofi Gennimata.
The novice leader raised eyebrows in March after declaring that he would only lend support to a coalition government if neither Mitsotakis nor Tsipras became prime minister.
Because he was not an elected member of Greece’s parliament, Androulakis was the first party leader who could not participate in debates in the chamber.
The Socialist party was instead represented by another senior cadre.
In past weeks, Androulakis has accused Tsipras of copying the slogans of the Socialist party’s founder Andreas Papandreou.
Three-time premier Papandreou famously stormed to power in 1981 under the campaign motto of “Change”. Androulakis’s slogan for 21 May is “make change possible”.
Like Mitsotakis, Androulakis hails from the island of Crete and is a single father.