SYRIZA Leader Elections Pit Young Future Against Left’s Old Past

September 17, 2023

ATHENS – The politically dismantled SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance on Sept. 17 will try to elect a new leader in the aftermath of its former chief and one-time Premier Alexis Tsipras quitting, with five candidates vying for the helm.

If no one gets enough of the vote to win outright a run-off will be held Sept. 24 as the party – rebranded from the Radical Left SYRIZA after taking repeated pummelings at polls – tries to resurrect itself.

The front-runners are seen being the two youngest, 38-year-old Effie Achtsioglou – a former Labor Minister – and 35-year-old Stefanos Kasselakis, who spent time in the United States and has no real practical experience in the party.

The others are one-time top Tsipras aide Nikos Pappas – who was convicted in a scheme to sell TV licenses but not jailed – and former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, a Marxist economist who reluctantly agreed to Greece’s international lenders’ terms, accepting austerity in exchange for a bailout.

Also, 77-year-old political veteran Stefanos Tzoumakas, also heavily involved in the politics of SYRIZA that saw the party fall from 149 seats in Parliament in winning the 2015 elections to just 47 this year.

Polls opened for election of new SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance party leader on Sunday, September 19, 2023. (Photo by GIANNIS PANAGOPOULOS/EUROKINISSI)

In their districts in the national elections in June that saw SYRIZA routed again, Achtsioglou came in first in West Athens during the most recent election, receiving 28,491 votes. Nikos Pappas topped his district with 21,346 votes.

Tsakalotos, known for carrying a red backpack while finance chief and battling Greece’s lenders before capitulating, got 25,498 votes. Tzoumakas got only 9,006 wasn’t elected to Parliament.

Kasselakis, who came out of nowhere to be dubbed an Instagram candidate because of his social media presence, gained further traction in a video showing him visiting the island of Makronissos that was used to imprison leftists during the military junta reign and is a symbol of resistance for the party.

Kasselakis casts votes, welcomes large turnout for SYRIZA elections

“The country deserves to have a progressive government soon,” said candidate for the SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance party’s leadership Stefanos Kasselakis, after casting his vote at the same polling centre in Peristeri as his rival Effie Achtsioglou on Sunday afternoon. He said he was deeply moved by the unexpectedly large turnout for the polls and the lines waiting to cast their vote, while noting that it was worth the trouble “for a progressive government that puts people first and knows how to handle the country’s future.

Achtsioglou casts vote in SYRIZA-PA leadership elections

Effie Achtsioglou, a candidate for the leadership of main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance, exercised her right to vote in the party’s elections at the polling centre in Peristeri on Sunday morning.

In statements afterward, she noted that this was a great day, a day for the renewal of the modern Left and said: “Yesterday, Mr. Mitsotakis told us that his plan for the next years is for us to survive. We won’t take him up on it. Today we send the first message and tomorrow we demand the life that we deserve.”

Tsakalotos: ‘An important day for SYRIZA and society’

“This is an important day, an important day for SYRIZA and society, and an important day for the people of the Left,” said SYRIZA-PA leadership candidate Euclid Tsakalotos on Sunday, in a statement at the party’s Nea Ionia polling centre after exercising his right to vote.


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