Alexis Tsipras puts a face on Greece’s ascendant new leftists. The leader of the SYRIZA Coalition of the Radical Left campaigned on the wave of Greeks’ anti-bailout, anti-austerity fury. SYRIZA came second in the election on Sunday, after the New Democracy conservatives, and ahead of the equally discredited austerity plan backers the PASOK Socialists. Now 37-year-old Tsipras is sitting on a political powder keg.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras welcomed him to headquarters on Monday. He has rejected any partnership with the right, as he has with PASOK. The conservative party supports the conditions that international lenders attach to their rescue offer. Tsipras summed up his opinion of Samaras’s position.
He said: “His signature and his commitment to the bailout are not a salvation but a tragedy for the people. We fully understand the difficulties the country is facing, but at the same time this decision [in the form of votes], taken by the people, creates possibilities for a radically different course.”
He demands: no further impoverishment of Greeks, immediate abolition of MPs’ immunity from prosecution, reform of electoral law, a probe of Greek banking practices and an audit of the causes of Greece’s public finance debacle.
SYRIZA won a lot of young and urban votes – just shy of 17 percent – with the presence of nationally respected figures, including intellectuals.
At the other end of the political spectrum came Chryssi Avghi, the Golden Dawn party, with its seven percent.
Leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos denies allegations it is neo-fascist, but Golden Dawn’s vote share was also symptomatic of Greeks’ anger with a system that brought them where they are today.
After party members ordered journalists to stand to attention at a press conference, the Greek Federation of Journalists issued a formal protest, telling (quote) “Hitler nostalgics and brave boys in black t-shirts that no journalist will be coerced, threatened or terrorised”.
The behaviour of the party earned the Golden Dawn leader the media nickname “Fuhrer”. He has called for the Greek-Turkish border to be mined to stop immigrants, under a rallying call “Greece for Greeks” and a flag suggesting the classical swastika symbol strongly associated with Nazism.
Golden Dawn campaigned strongly in the poorest neighbourhoods, its activists accompanying people who felt unsafe in the streets, and giving out food to needy families.