The Greek people are giving Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party a second chance to tackle Greece’s problems. In a resounding re-election victory Sunday, 41 year-old Tsipras became the first Greek prime minister to win re-election during the country’s six-year debt crisis.
The Syriza party won just over 35%, slightly down from its previous result and still short of an overall majority. But it will renew its coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks. The opposition group, New Democracy, gained 28%.
Tspiras was first elected in January on the promise that he would shield Greece from more painful austerity which creditors were insisting on in return for more bailout funds. But he was ultimately forced to accept tough conditions for Greece’s third international bailout.
Sunday’s snap election was called after Syriza lost its majority in August. After this weekend’s election results, a euphoric Tsipras said, “In Europe today, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity.”
Dean Sirigos, senior writer for the Greek-American newspaper, The National Herald, says he was surprised Tsipras won re-election by such a wide margin. “Given the alternatives and the fact that he really hasn’t been given a real shot to actually tackle these problems, the Greek people said let’s go with Tsipras again,” he told Yahoo Finance. “He seems to be the least tainted with the problems that proceeded and created the crisis.”
Most would agree that Tsipras has a long “to do” list. Sirigos says topping that list is satisfying international creditors that Greece is meeting the terms of its $97 billion bailout package. “The understanding seems to be that as tough as this new agreement is, if they move forward on the key economic and structural reforms there will be some relief, both in terms of debt restructuring and even some economic stimulus.”
Another major challenge for Tsipras and his Syriza party is the growing refugee crisis. Greece is the gateway for hundreds of thousands of migrants as they flee their homeland in the hopes of reaching richer European countries to the north.
“The Greek government has been responding,” Sirigos says. “They’ve moved additional people and resources out to the border regions including the islands where so many of the drownings of migrants have taken place. But it’s really up to the European Union to respond and to coordinate their response with Greece.”
Some have commented that these past eight months in office have taken their toll on the 41 year-old Alexis Tsipras. “What people are hoping both in and out of Greece,” Sirigos says, “is that he’s matured. Tsipras came in as a party that’s never really governed. We’ll see how far up the learning curve he’s climbed. If that entailed him aging a bit, I think he and the country will take that.”