Despite upheaval about the Greek minister’s support for the austerity program for Greek’s bailout, Alexis Tsipras was reelected in a stunning victory. Predictions suggested that the race would be too close to call, but Tsipras came through with 35.5% of the vote. This put him clearly ahead of the main conservative challengers who got 28.1%.
Greece has been in turmoil with payment for its third bailout of $96.8 billion fast coming due. Tsipras came to power with a promise to tear up the bailout agreements, but he made a stunning reversal that had analysts questioning his political viability. Instead, he accepted even harsher terms in July including tax increases, significant pension reforms, and a major program for privatization.
Tsipras resigned as prime minister in August after his controversial decision to sign the EU-backed bailout splintered his Syriza party. Hardliners in the party broke ranks to form a new anti-austerity party—Popular Unity. Thus, Tsipras faced challenges from the left and the right, making his stunning win even more impressive. However, 49% of Greece’s voters sat out the election, and this helped the Syriza party retain power.
EU officials signaled their pleasure with his reelection and promises to repay Greek’s debts. French president Francois Hollande was a key ally during the summer’s bailout negotiations and was quick to congratulate Tsipras. EU’s parliament president tweeted congratulations with a warning that Tsipras needed to go along with Greece’s bailout commitments. Inside sources told The Guardian that they were relieved that the leftist was in government rather than rabble rousing on the streets.
Tsipras’ January win was groundbreaking—the first time the hard left had assumed power in Greece since the country banned the Communist party after the 1946-49 civil war. Greece is currently in serious financial peril, and it remains to be seen whether Tsipras can bring financial relief to this troubled country.