With about a quarter of the ballots counted, the Syriza candidates for Athens and the province of Attica—where roughly 40% of the Greek population lives—staged a come-from-behind surge to secure a runoff against incumbents Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and regional prefect Ioannis Sgouros. In Athens, Mr. Kaminis was running roughly one percentage point ahead of challenger Gavriil Sakellaridis, while Rena Dourou, the Syriza candidate for provincial chief, was more than a percentage point ahead of Mr. Sgouros. Until a few days ago, both incumbents—who are identified with Greece’s socialist Pasok party—appeared to enjoy solid leads in their respective constituencies. This will be the first time New Democracy won’t even have a candidate in the second round in the Greek capital since 1975. “The first decisive step was taken today,” said Mr. Sakellaridis, promising an upset next week.
The local elections, to be followed by next week’s runoff and along with a nationwide vote for the European Parliament, also next Sunday, are seen as the first indirect electoral test for the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. It marks the first time Greece’s crisis-battered citizens have been called to the voting booths since the current two-party government—made up of the conservative New Democracy party and Pasok—came to power two years ago at the peak of the country’s debt crisis.
And though the results won’t alter the coalition’s narrow two-seat majority in Greece’s 300-seat legislature, they will be symbolic for both the government and the radical-left opposition.
The outcome could determine whether Greece sticks with its overhaul agenda or is plunged into renewed political uncertainty.