The biggest winner of the Greek election is Alexis Tsipras and his party, SYRIZA. In the craziest and most crucial elections in Greek post-war history, Alexis Tsipras overcame a lack of experience, two candidates who are political institutions and a ruthless media propaganda and made Siriza Greece’s number two political party. His response to the dead-end of the crisis was to suggest debatable, but certainly radical, solutions such as declaring a unilateral default. It’s impossible to say whether Alexis is going to make a difference or if his victory on Sunday was just another political bubble, carefully crafted by innovative political marketing techniques. One thing is for sure : young and charismatic, Alexis Tsipras is the man to watch on the Greek political scene.
Greece’s only hope or a dangerous populist?
For some, May 6 was the first day of a European spring and Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s youngest political leader, might be Europe’s hope for a new type of democracy. He clearly shows that he has the courage to express the values that he believes in and not the values of mainstream trends. He is a cool, laid back politician who avoids neck ties and likes to get around on his motorcycle-the complete opposite of PASOK and ND MPs who stroll around Athens in their BMWs and Mercedes wearing Armani suits. Compared to the old guard of the Greek political scene, Tsipras is informal, apparently relaxed, humorous and has a direct way to communicate with his main target group which is younger voters.
For others, Tsipras is just a young populist who has never held a job and barely speaks English. Spiegel says that “Tsipras walks up to the lectern like Elvis strutting onstage,” and with his latest statements about canceling the loan agreements it’s certain that he will rock Ms. Merkel’s world. In fact, representatives of the Troika were quick to state on the day after the elections that “no money will be coming to Greece if austerity measures are discontinued.” Yet for the past two years, Tsipra’s philosophy has been along the lines of “When the people speak up, the troika shuts up.”
Communist Youth, School Occupations and Siriza
Born four days after the fall of Greece’s military dictatorship in July 1974, Tsipras studied civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens. Tsipras has been politically active since his school days. In the early 1990s, he was politically active in the pupil uprising against the controversial law of then minister Vasilis Kontogiannopoulos, which included high school students occupying schools for several months.
He rose to prominence as a representative of the pupil movement but he was accused by the media for being disingenuous in defending middle and high school students’ right to absenteeism without parental notification.
“I liked that period,” says Tsipras. It was very touching that high school students were able to live on their own in the school. We were responsible for cleaning the school, for food, for the pharmacy. Others guarded the school and did shifts at the door from morning till night.”
Tsipras first emerged on the political scene in 2006 when he scored third place in the Athens mayoral race. In 2008 he became leader of the Left Coalition and was elected in parliament in 2009. His party, the Coalition of the Radical Left, commonly known by its Greek abbreviation ΣΥ.ΡΙΖ.Α (SYRIZA), is a coalition of left political parties in Greece. The party has been accused of having close connections with the “known unknown” anarchists who have, as a hobby, burning central Athens in order to fight capitalism.
The Cohabitation Agreement, Gay Rights and Immigration
His partner Peristera or Betty Baziana, a computer engineer, is his high school sweetheart. They met in 1987 as schoolmates at Ampelokipoi High School and both became members of the Communist Youth of Greece. Today, they live together. They have one son and Betty is seven months pregnant with their second child. Tsipras preferred to take advantage of the cohabitation law that has been in effect since 2009 rather than get married at the courthouse or the church. His party SYRIZA, is considered to be the most open-minded parliamentary party when it comes to gay marriage, gay rights and immigrants.
Alexi’s Next Step
According to political analysts, Tsipras has matured. He has developed a more concrete rhetoric, despite at times seeming to be proposing things outside a realistic framework. Yet the innovative techniques of political marketing, the relaxed laid back image of a thirty-something-year-old versus the political dinosaurs of ND and PASOK cannot take him any further. From this point on he will be tested mostly for his actions rather than his humor or eloquence. Greek society needs clear-cut changes; a third party is needed to put an end to the bipolar partisan transition to power between PASOK and the ND. From this point on, Tsipras has another big chance and challenge to prove himself to the hundreds of thousands of Greeks who have no hope left and are literally exhausted from the countless measures imposed by the IMF and the EU for the sake of the banks.