Kasselakis forges ahead in first round of SYRIZA-PA elections with 45.47%. (Photo by TATIANA BOLARI/EUROKINISSI)
ATHENS – Unless she can make up an almost 9 point difference in a second-round battle to pick a leader for Greece’s major opposition SYRIZA, former labor minister Effie Achtsioglou won’t be the first woman to hold the post.
She was the perceived front runner to take over from former leader and one-time premier Alexis Tsipras, who quit after being routed in Greece’s second round June 25 elections, thumped by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The race turned when the 38-year-old Achtsioglou faced a surprise entry in Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, openly gay and with a background in the United States and the financial world, at odds with SYRIZA’s anti-Capitalist stance.
He worked at the back-office “risk management department” of Goldman Sachs, the American investment firm accused of profiting from Greece’s 2010-18 economic crisis and he founded a shipping company, Swift Bulk.
Along with having no experience in politics and not even being on the ticket for Parliament, Kasselakis came out of nowhere with a social media presence and strategy that caught his opponents in the first found off guard.
With three SYRIZA veterans eliminated – including one-time Tsipras aide Nikos Pappas, who was running despite being convicted in a TV licensing scheme and now endorsing Kasselakis – it’s the newcomer vs. Achtsioglou.
The decision will be made Sept. 24 with some 70,000 SYRIZA members who didn’t vote in a first round that saw a turnout of almost 150,000 seen being a key for Achtsioglou to make up the difference.
In a feature about the battle the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) characterized it as between a “Gay Man or Woman” to try to resurrect a battle beaten into oblivion under Tsipras after he reneged on virtually all his promises while ruling from 2015-19, including accepting austerity measures.
Kasselakis was educated at the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania and won 45.o4 percent of the votes in the first round and was curiously backed by a SYRIZA far-left firebrand, former deputy health minister Pavlos Polakis.
He beat out the field of SYRIZA stalwarts, with Achtsioglou getting 36.21 percent and seeing Pappas joining Polakis in turning on their colleague in favor of a man no one in the party had ever heard of until now.
“It was an unexpectedly large turnout that marks the first step for the country to have a progressive government,” said Kasselakis after the results although he earlier praised Mitsotakis before saying he wants to defeat him.
THE LEFT CANNOT HOLD
“Wherever I went in the first week, people told me ‘hold on’, because of the attacks I received, in the second and third week they told me ‘you are our hope’,” he said of the turnabout.
“I want to tell them that the hope is all of us together, not me alone, and to make hope a reality, let’s go back next Sunday to the polls, win and face a government that does not represent the history of the country,” he added.
Achtsioglou said the turnout in the party polls was “the best answer to the preachers of defeatism” and called for a debate with Kasselakis, who didn’t initially respond to the challenge, apparently happy to sit on the cushion he won.
She said the final run-off “will determine whether the struggles ahead of us will be given to them on political terms or not.” If he wins, Kasselakis won’t have a seat in Parliament unless several others step aside.
Tsipras stayed out of backing anyone and said after the first round that, “SYRIZA’s base is speaking. Thousands of SYRIZA members who come to the polls are speaking.”
He added that, “Their massive presence, together with mine, as one of the thousands who come to the ballot box, shows that those who declared SYRIZA absent were in a hurry.”
Whoever wins will – as Tsipras did in winning the January, 2015 elections in a stunning victory for a party that was almost irrelevant – try to rebuild the fractured left that’s a collection of Communists, Stalinists, Leninists, Trotskyites, anarchists, terrorist sympathizers and environmentalists.
Tsipras got 35.46 percent and 1,926,526 votes in winning the 2015 elections that brought SYRIZA 149 seats in Parliament – two shy of a majority in the 300-member party that saw him bring in the far-right Independent Greeks (ANEL) as a partner.
That coalition dissolved in defeat when Mitsotakis easily won in 2019 and again this year when Tsipras got only 17.83 percent – falling 17.63 from eight years earlier, and with 930,013 votes, losing 996,513 votes, losing half his base in earlier case and leaving the party in a shambles, with only 47 seats in Parliament.
For SYRIZA the battle won’t be who will be the new leader but whether he or she can make it relevant again beyond being an ignored, if vexing, voice in Parliament where Mitsotakis’ New Democracy has 158 seats and can do whatever he wants.
ATHENS - You wouldn’t imagine it from the busy streets of Athens and Greek cities buzzing with activity, people out dining, having coffee and socializing but large numbers of elderly in the country spend their days alone in remote areas.
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) hosts an in-person screening of Greece’s Oscar entries which compete for nominations in December - Asimina Proedrou’s top Iris Award-winner ‘Behind the Haystacks’ (Πίσω από τις Θημωνιές) and Thanasis Neofotistos’ multiple-award-winning short film ‘Air Hostess – 737’ - on Sunday, December 10, 5:30 PM, at the Gianopulos Family Theater at St.
UTTARKASHI, India (AP) — All 41 construction workers who were trapped in a collapsed mountain tunnel in northern India for more than two weeks were pulled out on Tuesday, bringing an end to a drawn-out rescue mission that had grabbed the country's attention for days.
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