He has been called “the Greek Robin Hood” by many – Alexis Tsipras, the 40-year-old leader of Syriza, won the elections last Sunday in Greece and got 149 seats in the Greek Parliament, only two seats away missing for the absolute majority. Syriza has become the first radical left party to take office in the European Union – and some predict similar results in Spain, where ‘Podemos’, a party with strong ties with Syriza, is leading the polls for December’s general elections.
On the first days after the elections, Alexis Tsipras has managed to form a coalition government in a remarkably short period of time (it has not taken long for Syriza to find an ally in ANEL, the Independent Greeks, a conservative party); to announce its cabinet of ministers, which has been widely criticised due to the fact that no woman has been appointed; to release the first measure of this term, a bill that will raise the minimum wage to 751 euro per month, and have with first meeting with the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who already warned that Greece is heading for ‘very controversial’ talks concerning Greece’s debt.
Moreover, with its victory, Syriza has channeled the Greek voters’ hatred against New Democracy and PASOK, the two Greek parties that have ruled the country since the end of the dictatorship and, for many, the ‘guilty ones’ of the situation of despair Greece is currently facing.
Evangelos Venizelos, former Greek deputy prime minister, claimed that Tsipras is a Harry Potter-like magician who promises “paradise on earth without sacrifices, a return to prosperity in some sort of magical way”. Tsipras does not only want an end to austerity measures, but a call for debt cancellation and an increase in the country’s social expenditure.
The newly-elected Greek prime minister wants to tackle tax evasion, corruption at all levels and, especially, the sky-high unemployment and poverty rates in the country. However, he will indeed have to work his magic to keep his promise, and both the new anti-bailout government and Greece’s international partners will have to seek an agreement, mainly concerning Greece’s debt, worth 177% of its gross domestic product (GPD).
The trio of institutions that form the so-called troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) have already been clear that they do not even want to hear about debt forgiveness. Greece is still dependent on the bailout, and Tsipras has few options other than moderating his own speech and seek for realistic renegotiations, going through an unilateral default that would eventually lead to a ‘Grexit’, even if he has repeatedly spoken of “winning new trust” between Greece and the EU institutions.
There is the high risk that Greece could break with its international partners, but it also poses a big challenge to European institutions – it is undeniable that the austerity measures have proven its inability to bring growth and stability back in the country. Reaching an agreement always takes negotiation understanding from both sides, so, a scenario where the new Greek government and the EU work together, and where Tsipras carries the structural reforms needed, could make the spiral of austerity of the last five years come to an end.
Written by Anna Gumbau, AEGEE-Barcelona