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A second round as Tribune of the People

Moskovou Spiros Kommentarbild App
Spiros Moskovou
September 21, 2015

Alexis Tsipras has emerged triumphant from the Greek election. But although Tsipras' far-left critics have left his Syriza party, DW's Spiros Moskovou doubts that he will be able to push through reforms.

Alexis Tsipras jubilant
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Tzortzinis

Back in January, Syriza secured its first victory in general elections in Greece. At the time, a majority of the people believed that party leader Alexis Tsipras would manage to alleviate some of the impact the radical economic reforms of the past five years had made on society. Tsipras promised to put an end to the austerity policy. But all that came to nothing: After months of negotiations he had to accept the international donors' terms for a third "rescue package" to avert bankruptcy and Greece's forced exit from the eurozone.

Now Tsipras has been voted in again. The majority of the Greek people rewarded him for his apparent turnaround from pure idealism to pragmatic realism, and trusts him to minimize the effect on society of further reforms that need to be implemented rapidly.

The far-left arm of Syriza, which split off in protest at Tsipras' acceptance of the austerity measures, did not even manage to get over the three percent threshold to make it into parliament.

Tsipras I = Tsipras II ?

Still, it remains doubtful whether Tsipras and Syriza will manage to push forward the country's modernization. Over the past five years, Athens has seen five governments of various political persuasions come and go; none of them has managed to make a fundamental change.

The donors' demands have remained the same: To establish a functioning public sector and a competitive economy, and to fight corruption and tax evasion. The traditional parties failed to achieve this and Syriza has also made no real headway during its first seven months in office. The first measures implemented by Tsipras' first government were reactionary rather than progressive - paying homage to a strong state that looks after and finances everyone.

Will the second Tsipras government now change its tune? That's unlikely.

Spiros Moskovou heads DW's Greek language service
DW's Spiros Moskovou

As soon as the results came out on Sunday, it was made clear that Syriza's former coalition partner, the independent nationalist ANEL party, was again going to help Tsipras get the necessary majority of seats in parliament. Tsipras does not seem to have wasted any thought on including pro-European forces - such as the centrist To Potami or the social democrat Pasok - in a ruling coalition. This suggests that Tsipras is not interested in securing a broad basis for a sustainable change to the country - instead, he is seeking to evoke the moral and political purity of left-wing politics, while entering into a coalition with the most unbearable right-wing populists.

A relic of the old days

In a rare moment of sincerity, Tsipras recently admitted in a TV interview that he had come to realize the "power of money" during his demoralizing months-long negotiations with international donors.

But it is doubtful that this charismatic and inexperienced politician really sees the need to modernize Greece within the European context - and within the eurozone.

His left-wing rhetoric is a relic from the 20th century; he seems set to continue in the tradition of clinging to power in line with the decades-old tactics of Greece's traditional political parties. There is little hope for a bright future, considering the ease with which he makes populist statements while his policies threaten the very livelihood of the majority of the people. It is hardly surprising that for the first time in recent history in this country, the historic birthplace of "democracy," a staggering 45 per cent of the voters abstained.

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