Monday, September 21, 2015

Greece: Dramatic Victory for Syriza

When the first exit polls flashed up on the big screen in the same marquee at 7pm local time on Sunday, there were as many reporters, photographers and cameramen as there were party supporters. But as the night wore on and what had long looked the most uncertain of outcomes was steadily transformed into a dramatic, even a remarkable triumph, the crowd multiplied.

By the time the centre-right New Democracy leader, Vangelis Meimarakis, conceded defeat and Syriza and its leader, the outgoing premier Alexis Tsipras, seemed on course to win almost as many seats as it had nine months ago, the cheering, chanting, flagwaving and foot-stamping throng was in electoral ecstasy.

“It’s a great, great night,” Anastasia Giamali, Syriza’s candidate in Athens’s second electoral district, shouted above the strains of the anti-fascist anthem Bella Ciao belting from a loudspeaker. “Syriza suffered a major setback, there’s no denying it.

“But the people have shown as much responsibility as we did. They saw that we had done our best, that we had tried to help those who we defend – the poor, the unemployed, the bankrupt. This is a massive endorsement for Alexis Tsipras. He has won hearts and he has won minds.”

As if to prove her point, the tent erupted when Tsipras put in a brief appearance later, bounding onto the stage to tell his voters they had won a “great victory”. He had a “crystal clear” four-year mandate to “rid Greece of its corrupt old system”, he said, but warned of hard work ahead: “We won’t recover from the struggle by magic.”

There is, certainly, a long and very painful road ahead: the new government is already committed, under the terms of the cash-for-reforms rescue package, to undertake a root-and-branch overhaul of the shattered Greek economy, accompanied by radical changes to the country’s health, welfare, pensions and tax systems.

But on Sunday night it was hard to duck the euphoria. Giamali gushed that the victory really belonged to Syriza’s youthful, 41-year-old leader: “He was the first Greek prime minister to at least try to negotiate with the creditors. He was the first to admit he made mistakes.

“Above all, he was the first to really tell the truth: to say: ‘This will hurt, but it is necessary and we’ll do everything in our power to soften the blow for the weakest in society – not the strongest – whom we defend.”

1 comment:

graynomad said...

Greek people remain unbowed !