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Radical left SYRIZA leader Tsipras sworn in as Greek PM

Anti-bailout radical left SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in on Monday as Greece's 186th prime minister to head a coalition government after winning Sunday's national elections.

The 40-year-old SYRIZA chief visited President Karolos Papoulias and formally informed him that he has secured parliamentary majority after striking an agreement to form a ruling coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party.

Jointly, SYRIZA and ANEL will hold 162 seats in the next 300-member strong assembly.

A Symbol of Change

Often portrayed in the media as a symbol of youth and change in Greek politics, Tsipras led SYRIZA to win 36.3 percent of the votes against 27.8 percent for the conservative New Democracy party of former prime minister Antonis Samaras.

Falling marginally short of the needed threshold for a clear parliamentary majority, SYRIZA secured 149 seats in the 300-member strong parliament. ANEL won 4.7 percent of votes and 13 seats.

The SYRIZA leader did not take the traditional religious oath appointed premiers have taken in the past, breaking a decades old tradition in the Greek state in a sign that some changes have started in the country.

In another symbolic gesture before arriving at the prime minister's office to formally assume office, he visited the National Resistance Memorial to pay homage to people executed by Nazi forces during WWII.

His anti-austerity party's popularity has soared in the past three years, as austerity measures, cutbacks and taxes introduced to address the debt crisis, has left the Greek economy worse off in the eyes of the public.

"No More Austerity Pain"

Tsipras and SYRIZA always opposed the financial recovery plan promoted by foreign lenders -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Tsipras, who dresses casually and never wears a tie, has often stressed that SYRIZA does not want the collapse but the rescue of the euro.

In his first statements after winning Sunday's elections, he assured there would be no confrontation and risk of a Greek default and exit from the eurozone, but a mutual beneficial agreement on the management of Greek debt.

SYRIZA plans to renegotiate Greece's bailout, reverse the unprecedented unemployment rate, restructure sovereign debt to make it sustainable and implement measures in order to restore economic growth, Tsipras underlined.

The argument has gained some support by leading economists and intellectuals across Europe. Whether current EU leaders will reach a deal with the new Greek government remains to be seen.

New Generation Leader

Tsipras is Greece's first political leader to be born after the fall of the country's 1967-74 military junta and the first Leftist prime minister in the country's history after WWII.

Left parties have never ruled Greece in modern history, with an exception of some months in a coalition government in the late 1980s.

Born in Athens three days after the fall of the junta in 1974 to a family of civil engineers, Tsipras studied at the National Technical University of Athens.

His political activity dates back to the period of high school as a leading activist during Greek students' protests against an education reform law in the 1990s.

In October 2006, he ran as a mayoral candidate for the City of Athens. He ranked third with an impressive percentage of 10.5 percent for a newcomer supported by a Left party.

He became the party leader of SYRIZA at the age of 34, thus becoming the youngest ever leader of a Greek political party.

In the 2009 election, just before the outbreak of the debt crisis in Greece, he was elected to the Greek Parliament for Athens. SYRIZA entered the parliament with about 7 percent of the vote.

Tsipras led SYRIZA through the 2012 double elections in May and June, overseeing a swing of over 17 percent and 27 percent of votes respectively to the party, and becoming the leader of the main opposition.

He was elected vice president of the Party of the European Left (EL) during the 3rd Congress in December 2010, and was re-elected during the 4th Congress in December 2013.

After the European Parliament elections in 2014, he was the EL's candidate for European Commission President. Tsipras lost, but SYRIZA won the first place for the first time in the political history of Greece, beating the ruling conservative New Democracy party.

In his personal life, he keeps a low profile along with his partner and school love Peristera Baziana. They have two sons. Their youngest one's middle name is Ernesto in a tribute to Che Guevara.

[Source: Xinhua, Athens, 26Jan15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 29Jan15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.