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Politics

Achtsioglou Wants Showdown Debate With Kasselakis for SYRIZA Helm

September 19, 2023

ATHENS – Playing catch-up after finishing a surprising second in a first round election to lead the major opposition SYRIZA, former Labor Minister Effie Achtsioglou challenged the new frontrunner, Stefanos Kasselakis, to debate.

The runoff will take place Sept. 17 to find a successor to former leader and one-time premier Alexis Tsipras, who quit after losing a second round of elections June 25 by Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

It was a stunning setback for Achtsioglou who was the perceived front-runner to take over the battered party before Kasselakis – who spent recent years in the United States and wasn’t a Parliament candidate, emerged as a social media star.

It’s also a battle of SYRIZA’s young: Achtsioglou is 38 and Kasselakis is 35, although he has the backing of a party firebrand, Pavlos Polakis, although Kasselakis’ capitalist background is at odds with party beliefs.

With some 70,000 SYRIZA party members not having voted in the first round which saw a turnout of almost 150,000, they could be a catalyst, depending on how many show up and with the candidates urging a big turnout.

Achtsioglou wants the chance to show why she should stand out in throwing down the gauntlet and wanting a face-to-face debate with Kasselakis, who didn’t initially respond to the challenge.

“I have asked the party secretaries that a debate be carried out. I am completely open to any timeline,” Effie Achtsioglou said in comments to broadcaster Antenna in her appeal.

“The party secretaries will convey the request to Mr. Kasselakis,” she said, hoping to make up ground after getting 36.18 percent of the vote to 44.91 percent for Kasselakis, who used social media to great advantage to create an image.

His entry into the race also energized a party that was badly beaten down and fell to only 47 seats in Parliament after holding 149 following a victory in January, 2015 elections when Tsipras brought the Leftists out of nowhere to the top.

It all fell apart during his 4 ½ years in power during which he reneged on essentially all his promises and imposed austerity he vowed to reject, accepting it as condition of a third bailout for Greece, of 86 billion euros ($91.98 billion)

The emergence of Kasselakis brought a bigger turnout than was expected in the first round which initially was seen to be only 60,000 as the party has fallen into irrelevance without a voice in Parliament beyond complaining.

Some 40,000 people became members on the spot in order to vote, indicating they were drawn to him given his rise to overtake Achtsioglou, the early favorite over three other challengers before he threw his hat in the ring.

If Kasselakis wins, he won’t be able to be in Parliament without maneuvers in which others elected would have to step aside, otherwise leaving him on the outside of the body ruled by New Democracy.

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