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Politics

Under Pressure Within, Kasselakis Says Will Rebuild Fractured SYRIZA

ATHENS – After heading off a challenge, major opposition SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselakis said he would revamp the party after the June elections for European Parliament, as it has slid into third in surveys behind the PASOK-KINAL Socialists.

Under fire for the party losing ground since he took over – a dozen dissidents broke off and formed their own party, the New Left – he narrowly avoided having SYRIZA go to elections again when Olga Gerovasili said she wanted to replace him.

That came during a SYRIZA Congress that was contentious and in which he dared critics to come after him as he offered another election before members decided to wait until after the EU election results.

In an interview with Real News, the Greek-American newcomer to politics – who used a slick social media campaign to win the party helm in 2023 – said that the turmoil is because of change he’s trying to bring after SYRIZA was slammed in elections.

“The mandate I have received is to rebuild the party following a painful defeat and an inevitable subsequent split. All actions will be taken with the utmost participation and consultation with the members, utilizing all available digital tools,” Kasselakis said.

As for criticism about the party’s raucous Congress that showed a schism he said that, “I never requested a carte blanche mandate; I sought trust as the newly-elected President to forge ahead. In the European elections, we will all be assessed.”

Referring to Gerovasili, he said that, “She serves as the Vice-President of the Parliament and holds a prominent position within the party. Her opinions and contributions are valuable for the progress of the party. I do not view anyone as internal opposition.”

He said that the party’s slippage in surveys was because of the turmoil and said that, “The current polls indicate that the party has stabilized. We aspire to alter this perception in the remaining three months leading up to the European elections.”

He also criticized Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government’s handling of an investigation into a February, 2023 head-on train collision that killed 57 people that has seen little reported progress.

“The Mitsotakis administration has made efforts from day one to suppress evidence, impede the investigation, and manipulate justice,” he said.“I am personally committed to doing everything in my power to prevent the cover-up of this state crime. Holding the perpetrators accountable is not only a matter of justice for the families of the 57 deceased individuals; it is a paramount issue for democracy in Greece,” he said.

He said he’s opposed to the government’s plan to allow private universities in Greece – the only country in the European Union which prohibits them, saying that, “Higher education is not a commodity; it is a right protected by the Constitution. I cannot endorse the government’s legalization of transactions with university presidents and funds aimed at conferring equivalent degrees from private universities, essentially treating education as a commodity,” he said.

“We advocate for well-funded, well-staffed, and globally-oriented public universities. I anticipate that all factions identifying as Left and progressive will unequivocally reject this unconstitutional proposal,” he said.

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