As a politician, Alexis Tsipras climbed too high, too soon. He became the leader of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) party at an early age in 2008, promoted unexpectedly by departing party chief Alekos Alavanos.
He was elected in parliament in 2009 and less than six years later he became not only the first leftist prime minister in Greece, but also the youngest at age 40.
In the turbulence generated after the conservative New Democracy – Socialist PASOK – Democratic Left DIMAR coalition signed the second bailout program in 2012, SYRIZA started rising slowly but steadily. By 2014, Alexis Tsipras had found all the right things to say to present himself and his party as the only alternative to crisis-stricken Greeks; a kind of a savior after 40 years of New Democracy and PASOK alternating in power, bringing the country on the brink of bankruptcy.
Well-versed in the propaganda techniques he learned as a member of the Greek Communist youth party, Tsipras knew that people are more susceptible to a big lie than a little lie, so he came to power promising the impossible: Writing off the bailout program memoranda with one law and sending creditors home, forgiving individual debts, protecting debtors from the banks, abolishing the single property tax and highway tolls, getting billions in war reparations from Germany, putting an end to corruption and tax evasion, eliminating the old political system and changing the European Union from a bureaucratic entity that exists only to balance numbers to a “EU for the people”.
Of course, he did none of all of that. From day one – when he saw that his 146 lawmakers were not enough to form an autonomous government in the 300-seat House – he formed an “unholy” coalition with extreme rightist and New Democracy renegade Panos Kammenos and his Independent Greeks (ANEL) party.
From then on, every day that passed, Tsipras proved that not only could he not accomplish any of the things he pledged to do, but he gradually became exactly what he was supposed to fight against. In almost four and a half years, he gave Greeks more than enough reasons to vote against him on Sunday.
10 reasons why Tsipras will lose his seat
Tsipras created high expectations for the Greek people who saw him as “the new”. Yet, only months into his stay in power, people saw that their hopes were crushed, discovering that his policies were no different than those of his predecessors. Disappointment turned to anger, exhibited at the May 26 European Parliament and local government elections.
He overtaxed the middle class in order to give more to the low-income Greeks. This way, he created more poverty. At the same time, his promise of fighting tax evasion in order to generate revenue to be redistributed, never materialized.
In order to govern, Tsipras formed a coalition with Kammenos who exhibited arrogance and vulgarity in the House, often acting beyond the law on certain issues.
Tsipras took it upon himself to solve the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia name issue ignoring the will of Greek people and without discussing the issue with opposition leaders. He then called all those protesting against the name “extremists”, “nationalists”, even “fascists”. Then he passed the Prespes agreement in parliament with the slimmest majority amidst accusations of bribing MPs from other parties offering them high posts in government.
Tsipras’ stance and words have been divisive throughout his stay in power. It was always “us and them”, meaning those who vote for us and our enemies. In his second electoral victory in September 2015, one of his pre-election slogans was “Let’s finish them off”. He blatantly exhibited this attitude in the Macedonia issue. This attitude also prevented SYRIZA from making any kind of alliance with center and center-left parties.
Faithful to the communist dogma he was taught in his youth, he created “enemies of the people”. Those enemies varied during his term: It was the media that criticized him, the opposition that wanted to bring back the memoranda, the right-wing extremists, the oligarchs, the rich and so on.
While presenting himself as a humble leftist who struggles for his people, Tsipras succumbed to the perks of power. He enjoyed incognito holidays on the luxury yacht of a shipowner and traveled with the costly presidential aircraft, which he had promised to sell before elected.
One thing Greeks will never forget, much less forgive, was the show that Tsipras, some of his ministers, fire and police chiefs put on the night of July 23, 2018 at the operation center for the deadly fire at Mati. Even though pertinent authorities knew there were people who had died, Tsipras and the rest pretended there was no official reports of fatalities.
After the tragedy that left 102 people dead, he added insult to injury when he and his cabinet put most of the blame on the houses built without a permit and blocked access to the sea for the victims. He and his cabinet showed no compassion for the victims and to this day they have given them no special aid.
Pavlos Polakis, the brutish, outspoken Deputy Health Minister has verbally attacked opposition lawmakers, journalists, academics and generally everyone who is not a leftist. His daily posts on social media were mostly vulgar and provocative. The fact that Tsipras never reprimanded him for some outrageous statements verging on hateful, was conceived by many as Polakis being the true voice and ethos of Tsipras himself and the whole of the party.
Syriza ministers showed unprecedented tolerance to the actions of anarchist groups, petty crime and vandalism. By bringing back the controversial university asylum, campuses became dens of drug trafficking and crime. Also, the anarchists’ weekly attacks with Molotov cocktails against police without anyone being arrested and the action of the Rubicon group defacing embassies and public buildings, the smashing of shops and banks were seen by the government as “political activism”.
At the same time, the controversial “Paraskevopoulos Law” had over 400 serious criminals released from prison. Crime rates went up, making Greeks feel unsafe.
More reasons Tsipras lost his former appeal
There are several more reasons SYRIZA angered big parts of Greek society: The turning of public television channels (ERT) into a blatant government propaganda machine, or the botched effort to control television with the permit issuing competition; The education ministers’ attack on excellence in favor of equality, their opposition to the creation of private universities that would bring revenue, the back and forth on the university entrance exam system; the inauguration of unfinished public works like the Thessaloniki metro; the manufactured Novartis scandal to defame the opposition that turned into a fiasco; the cover-up of the oil spill that polluted the Saronic Gulf; the lie that Greece is out of the memoranda when the bailout program obligations end in 2060; the confiscation of homes and bank accounts for debts to the state; Tsipras’ effort to buy the pensioners’ vote by giving them a bonus two days before the May 26 elections; the failed attempt to separate church and state; Tsipras’ clinging to power by any means, even by destroying small parties like centrist and social liberal To Potami, ANEL and DIMAR; his arrogance and certainty that he will remain in office at Maximos Mansion for at least another term.
Overall, Alexis Tsipras insulted Greek people’s intelligence far too many times. Greeks punished him for that in the May 26 ballot box. And they are to do the same on Sunday’s national elections.