Sunday 18 February 2018

Tsipras proclaims a 'clear mandate' after Greek election victory

Syriza back in power, but honeymoon will be short

Alexis Tsipras the leader of left-wing Syriza party waves to his supporters after the election results at the party's main electoral center in Athens
Alexis Tsipras the leader of left-wing Syriza party waves to his supporters after the election results at the party's main electoral center in Athens

Carla De Winterz

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said his left-wing Syriza party has a "clear mandate" after winning a second general election in less than nine months.

However, a sombre Mr Tsipras warned that Greeks faced a difficult road and recovery from financial crisis would only come through hard work.

"I feel vindicated because the Greek people have a clear mandate to carry on fighting inside and outside our country to uphold the pride of our people," Mr Tsipras told supporters in Athens.

"In Europe today, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity," Mr Tsipras said.

Syriza won just over 35pc of the vote, slightly down on its previous result and still short of an overall majority, but it will renew its coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks.

Opposition New Democracy earned 28pc, while the far-right Golden Dawn party came in third with 7pc, slightly up on January's poll. Turnout was said to be low.

Syriza was first elected in January on an anti-austerity mandate, but was forced to accept tough conditions for Greece's third international bailout.

The snap election was called after Mr Tsipras lost his majority in August.

Some of his MPs who had opposed the new bailout conditions split to form a new party, but it has failed to get into parliament.

Rain came down all day in Athens, prompting one observer to suggest that the gods were angry at the outcome.

Despite the mandate, no-one is suggesting the road ahead will be easy.

Mr Tsipras has signed off on severe austerity measures insisted on by the IMF and European Union, including cuts to pensions, rises in taxes and an end to some of the regulation and financial allowances that have kept many professions protected.

Farmers have already been readying their tractors for road blockades and some of the unemployed are contemplating protests. The new government's honeymoon will be a short one.

Mr Tsipras was joined at the celebrations by Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos.

"Together we will continue the struggle we began seven months ago," Mr Tsipras said.

Among the challenges facing Mr Tsipras will be satisfying international creditors that Greece is meeting the terms of the latest bailout package worth up to €86bn.


Creditors carry out a review in October and there is still some opposition from within Syriza. The European Commission yesterday urged Syriza to press on with reforms.

"There is a lot of work ahead and no time to lose," EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

European Council President Donald Tusk said in a letter to Mr Tsipras that many of the biggest challenges facing the EU were the same as those facing Greece, "including the refugee crisis and the creation of sustainable growth and jobs".

The Greek electoral system provides the party with the largest number of votes a bonus of 50 seats and Syriza will have 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament, only four fewer than in their January victory.

The Independent Greeks party, which is anti-austerity but agrees with Syriza on little else, won 10 seats. New Democracy won 75 and Golden Dawn 18.

Mr Tsipras won despite voters' rejection of austerity in a July referendum, but Germany yesterday urged Mr Tsipras to implement agreed reforms in exchange for the bailout.

Analysts see risks that the reforms demanded under the €86bn bailout programme will not be fully implemented because of their unpopularity among Greek voters and within Syriza itself.

With Germany the biggest contributor to the bailout, some allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel are also worried about the high level of tax evasion in Greece.

Irish Independent

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