ATHENS – Then-Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras conceded defeat to the major opposition New Democracy in the July 7 snap election that saw the Conservatives drub him by 8.2 percent, but he said he won’t give up the party’s reins and will continue to lead the opposition, from where he had risen to power in 2015.
New Democracy, which lost to Tsipras 4 ½ years ago twice before Mitsotakis took over, beat back SYRIZA’s hopes of returning to power by 39.85-31.52 percent, enough of a showing for SYRIZA for Tsipras to say it wasn’t a strategic defeat and he will keep fighting.
“The Greece that we are delivering to the new government is nothing like Greece as it was handed over to us,” Tsipras said.
“I will struggle hard in order for SYRIZA and the Progressive Alliance to become a major progressive democratic party with responsibility for the present and the future of the country. We will work hard and with persistence in order for ND’s victory to be proved temporary,” he said.
The result was a stinging blow to Tsipras, who had insisted he could overturn a sizeable gap in opinion polls running up to the election, which he asked to hold several months before his term expires in the fall.
“The citizens have made their choice. We fully respect the popular vote,” Tsipras said in his concession speech from central Athens, adding that he had phoned Mitsotakis to congratulate him.
“I want to assure the Greek people that … we will protect the rights of working people with a responsible but dynamic opposition,” he said.
“I wish and hope that the return of New Democracy to government will not lead to vengeance … particularly toward the significant achievements to protect the social majority and the workers,” Tsipras continued.
Tsipras, 44, called the election three months ahead of schedule after his left-wing SYRIZA party suffered a severe defeat in European Union and local elections in May and early June.
To gain ground, he increasingly appealed to a middle class struggling under a heavy tax burden, much of it imposed by his government and went on a rampage of pension bonuses and reverted to cutting some of the taxes he raised, to no avail.
Tsipras led his small Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, party to power in 2015 on promises to repeal the austerity measures of Greece’s first two bailouts but quickly surrendered to the country’s lenders but said it wasn’t his fault because he had no choice and constantly deflected any criticism while claiming he is bringing a recovery.
He also cemented a deal with neighboring North Macedonia under which that country changed its name from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) but was allowed to keep the word Macedonia, the name of an ancient Greek province.
That was done over the opposition of two-thirds of Greeks, demonstrations and occasional violent protests, the deal seen as a key factor in his downfall and plummeting in popularity and leading to his crashing out of office sooner than expected.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)