Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for the dissolution of parliament on Saturday, kicking off the countdown to general elections set for May 21.
Mitsotakis, whose four-year term would have ended in July and holds a slim lead in polls, is seeking re-election on pledges of safety improvements after the nation’s worst rail disaster, and strengthening the economy.
He met with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou to submit the proposal from cabinet, with a signed presidential decree expected later in the day.
“The government has practically exhausted its term of office. I hope we have a fruitful debate free from toxicity,” Mitsotakis said in a statement calling for widespread participation in the coming elections.
“I especially call on young people who must be involved in decisions about their future,” he added.
Later, in televised statement, Mitsotakis added that “the country needs political stability to… regain investment grade status meaning cheaper borrowing for the country but also for businesses and households”.
Credit rating agency Standard and Poors refrained from granting investment grade to Greece’s economy on Friday, affirming its rating at “BB+” that is one notch below investment grade, attributed to the uncertainty of the upcoming general election.
The latest polls have shown the prime minister’s conservative New Democracy party holding a slim lead of around four points over the leftist Syriza party of former premier Alexis Tsipras.
The ruling party has been embroiled by a wiretap scandal which erupted last year when the head of the Greek socialist party was revealed to have been spied on by state intelligence.
The head of Greece’s intelligence agency resigned over the scandal, as did a senior prime ministerial aide who is Mitsotakis’ nephew.
Members of the prime minister’s own cabinet, prominent businessmen and journalists were also under surveillance in a separate operation involving illegal spying software called Predator, according to reports.
Mitsotakis has called the reports “an incredible lie” and in January survived a no-confidence vote on the scandal.
The May 21 ballot will be held under a proportional representation system that most analysts believe is unlikely to produce a clear winner.
If needed, follow-up polls will be held by early July at the latest, Mitsotakis said Tuesday.
A new law would apply to a July ballot, giving the winning party between 20 and 50 additional seats in parliament, depending on its final result.