After his leftist Syriza party emerged as the clear winner with 36.3 percent of the vote, Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece's new prime minister on Monday. With little pomp and no tie, the 40-year-old opted for a secular oath instead of a religious one, swearing to "always serve the interests of the Greek people."
Tsipras' victory marks the first time in four decades that neither party from the previous ruling coalition, New Democracy and the socialist PASOK, will be in power.
The election gave Syriza 149 seats of the 300 in parliament, just two shy of an absolute majority. In order to have a majority and form a government, the leftists made the interesting choice of creating a coalition with the Independent Greeks (ANEL), a small right-wing party that received 4 percent of the vote and 13 parliamentary seats.
Greece is beholden to its commitments, creditors say
That Tsipras is not forming a coalition with the centrist To Potami has raised concerns that the new prime minister plans to take a very tough line with rescue lenders. Syriza rode to victory on their promise to renegotiate Greece's tough bailout measures, and revoke many of the painful austerity laws associated with it.
But, in an interview with France's Le Monde newspaper on Monday, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said Greece was by no means off the hook. The Hellenic Republic must respect the eurozone's rules, Lagarde said, and should not expect special treatment.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also represents one of Greece's major creditors, warned the new government that they were beholden to their commitments. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that while Merkel was willing "to work with" the new Greek government, but that it must continue the "fulfillment of its commitments."
Not all German politicians were so polite. In an interview with the popular daily Bild, Hans-Peter Friedrich, former interior minister and current member of parliament with the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats, cautioned that: "The Greeks have the right to elect whomever they want. And we have the right to stop financing their debt."
es/kms (AP, AFP)