By Theodore Kalmoukos and Constantine S. Sirigos
BOSTON and NEW YORK – The people of Greece have spoken by elevating the far-left SYRIZA party to power, and the Greek-American community has responded with an expected mix of misgivings, hope and pledges of continued support for the homeland during its crisis.
The National Herald spoke with community leaders about the new page in Greece’s history. In addition to their perspectives on Alexis Tsipras’ victory most expressed frustration that Greek expatriates could not vote.
The third place finish of Golden Dawn was described as a sad if not frightening phenomenon for Greece. Although they were relieved that its share of the vote is not increasing, they attribute some citizens’ turn to extremist groups to their anger over the failures of the Greek establishment.
Some expressed great disappointment in the outgoing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and blamed him for running an ineffective campaign based on fear rather than solutions in the face Tsipras’ “Hope is coming” message.
In his letter of congratulations to Prime Minister Tsipras, Philip Frangos, the Supreme President of AHEPA, said “as you strive to meet the challenges Greece faces, the entire AHEPA family of organizations…is committed to being the sturdy, dependable bridge that has solidified the United States and Greece relationship for nearly a century.”
Nick Larigakis, the President of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) has met with the new Prime Minister several times. “We congratulate him and wish him much success in his very difficult mission and we look forward to working with him and his government to advance the very important U.S. –Greece relationship in the very geostrategic area of the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Andy Manatos, founder off the Coordinate Effort of Hellenes, told TNH “The results of the election in Greece will have no immediate impact on US-Greek relations. This is largely due to America’s strong connection to recent past Greek governments and to our people constantly reminding American policymakers of the unique bond between the people of Greece and America. ..The Greek people have spoken and it is now up to all Hellenes, those in Greece and those abroad, to offer whatever expertise or other assets they may have that might help lift the Greek state and the Greek people.”
Industrialist George Behrakis said, that “the election result was expected because no structural changes were made… I was surprised that Samaras did not create jobs because when you create jobs you collect more taxes, and shame on those who do not pay their taxes.”
He continued, saying that “they must send a minister around the world to pursue research and industrial ventures in Greece.” His advice to Tsipras is “do not become too radical. Greece needs changing, but in the right direction, jobs must be created for young people,” by attracting investment.
Author Nicholas Gage said “I think the people voted in anger rather than through logic and this was a result of the terrible campaign run by Samaras. Tsipras, who knows his weaknesses, hired political advisors. Samaras relied on his close colleagues and the result was disastrous. “
He explained the phenomenon of the Golden Dawn by saying that “many conservative Greeks had nowhere to go. New Democracy abandoned traditional values trying to get votes from the center-left, and votes went to Golden Dawn.”
Businessman Chris Tomaras argued that “Before the election I had a negative view off Tsipras because I thought he could not fulfill his promises, but after observing the behavior of the people who surround him I trust that he will have the courage, creativity and energy to bring about his promised results.”
Dimitris Chatzis, Supreme President of the Pan-Macedonia Association USA said: “We respect the decision of the Greek people, we work with all governments. Congratulations to the new Prime Minister.” He plans to soon visit him to talk about the Macedonia name issue.
Savvas Tsivikos, president of the Federation of Greek Societies of New Jersey, said, “God help him. In a democracy, election results must be accepted. Essentially, we see one third of the population wants to go in a different direction. In my opinion, the things we are hearing from people in Tsipras’ government are very dangerous… we cannot be calm about it because a single mistake can derail this train called Greece and send it over a cliff.”
Fr. Nicholas Castanas, pastor of St. Athanasius of Arlington, MA will be praying to avert a catastrophe. He said “If the government focuses on the well-being of the people and the good of the nation, then things will go well because matters have come to a head and patience and hard work are needed.”
Scientist and entrepreneur Sotiris Vahaviolos said that “the people decided to go for change, the question is, and will the markets accept what Tsipras wants to do? If Tsipras follows through with what he said about the troika, we do not know what will happen…the future is uncertain. Calming down the markets is the most serious thing.”
Vasilis Mataragas, president the Federation of Hellenic American Organizations of Illinois, believes that “the Greek people are looking for a savior. They are bleeding every day and times are very tough. They believe the election will produce miracles.”
Vassilis Kafkas, president of the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of New England noted that “the Greeks voted calmly and this is very important… the election was a referendum on the memoranda and the Troika.” He also hopes the new government will upgrade Diaspora relations.
Philip Christopher, PSEKA President and Chairman of the Pancyprian Association of America, said: “In principle I am glad that Greece held democratic elections and proved once more that it respects democracy and freedom. There is no doubt that Mr. Tsipras and his party will bring change. Hopefully, Greece will see better days.”
He noted further that “the phenomenon of the Golden Dawn is annoying and here in the U.S. are troubled by it because we have good relations with the Jewish lobby, which helps us on our Greece issues now that Turkey and Erdogan have shown their real faces regarding Israel and Islam.”
Dr. Stella Lymberis, 1st vice president of the Hellenic Medical Society (HMS), was not surprised at the results. “The Greek people wanted a change and they were moved by the by Tsipras’ nationalistic message. It’s the first time that a red party was come into power – it’s more red than PASOK. I hope it means there will be some justice for the poor people, but I am not sure they have to funds and organizational skills to enact the programs they propose. There are many radicals in his party, so it’s a frightening mix…Tsipras is probably the least to be afraid of. How much control he has is unknown.” HMS will continue to help its colleagues in Greece and those in need as much as possible.
George Andriotis, president of the Pan Dodecanesian Society, was among the few leaders who were thrilled with the results. He told TNH “it excites me because I participated in SYRIZA’s organization in New York and worked within my limited powers to contribute to the victory. I am not only satisfied because I have always supported progressive parties, but because Greece was at a dead end. Austerity has driven the people to poverty – soldiers are committing suicide, children sit malnourished in schools, and starvation wages are accompanied by false promises that we have exited the crisis…that was made clear by SYRAZA’s triumph and I am confident that our country will now see better days.”