Who Is Who: SYRIZA Leader Alexis Tsipras in Brief

World » SOUTHEAST EUROPE | January 25, 2015, Sunday // 22:11
Bulgaria: Who Is Who: SYRIZA Leader Alexis Tsipras in Brief Photo by EPA/BGNES

Alexis Tsipras, the 40-year-old leader of radical left SYRIZA, is now making headlines around the world as his party is becoming Greece's largest electoral force. 

Tsipras's activity has fueled much speculation over the past few years, ranging between "the man who could save Europe" and "the man who could bring Europe to its collapse".

But even though he has been in the political spotlight for just a little time if compared to former PM George Papandreou or current socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, the "dinosaurs" representing decades-old political dynasties, his radical activism dates 24 years back, when he spearheaded a student protest in the 1990s. As a communist leader, he managed to build up reputation both locally and (later) nationally.

At the age of 25 Tsipras, born into a middle-class family unrelated to politics, was elected Secretary of the leftist political party Synaspismos, the predecessor of SYRIZA from which the Coalition of the Radical Left split in nearly a decade. Tsipras made it into the leadership structures of Synapsismos in just four years, and it took him another seven years to become the European Left's deputy chair. Last year he headed the European Left's election ticket in the EP elections in May, thus being a de-facto contender to head the EU Commission. 

In 2008, he headed SYRIZA, thus becoming the youngest political leader (only at 33) in Greece's history.

Tsipras rose to popularity earlier in the 2010s, when Greece was already two years into the era of austerity. Back then he fervently rejected the severe conditions imposed on the country in return for the BGN 240 B loan secured in an agreement with the international lenders.

His SYRIZA party, literally Coalition of the Radical Left, came second in the 2012 snap poll, vowing to end severe restrictive measures that many Greeks believe have caused Greece's economy to shrink by a quarter. Another key promise was to that Greece would remain in the Eurozone, though his determination to abort the bailout program gave ground to the same scenarios some experts are drawing up nowadays: the ones meaning Greece would have to abandon the single-currency area.

His commitment to ending austerity is yet to be tested if he manages to forge a government; but some political scientists tend to remind that political contenders who use much radical rhetoric before elections also tend to become more moderate in their stance when in power. This is what many believed has happened to Tsipras lately as he has softened his tone on the Troika of lenders (which is now more often referred to as an "oppressor" by other parties than by SYRIZA) and has stopped threatening to end payment of Greece's liabilities.

Tsipras also believes that if his party takes over the administration in Athens, it will be able to call an international conference similar to the one held in London in 1953, when half of Germany's debt was written off.

An analysis of the N-TV portrays him as "probably a giant in retail trade" if "politicians are indeed peddlers of promises," referring to the fact that Tsipras has pledged to have Greece's massive debt written off, to stimulate the economy and reemploy thousands of civil cervants laid off in the past years. In his words, a SYRIZA cabinet would cause salaries, pensions and benefits to go up, mitigating the impact austerity has had on the everyday life of Greek citizens.

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Tags: Alexis Tsipras, greece, Eurozone, Syriza, Synaspismos, George Papandreou, Evangelos Venizelos, troika

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