Alexis Tsipras sworn in as Greek prime minister after election win


Athens (dpa) – Alexis Tsipras was sworn in for the second time as the prime minister of Greece Monday after winning a snap election he called to renew his SYRIZA party’s mandate as the country prepares to implement tough reforms as part of its bailout plan.

Having fallen short of an outright parliamentary majority, Tsipras has said he plans to form a government with former junior coalition partner, the Independent Greeks.

A breakaway anti-austerity faction of SYRIZA that formed its own party failed to secure any seats in Parliament in Sunday’s elections.

The remaining part of SYRIZA – the leftist party that gained power for the first time in January on Tsipras’ promise of battling fiscal belt-tightening required by previous bailouts – would be responsible for ensuring a third bailout Tsipras agreed to after cliffhanger negotiations that threatened to see Greece tip out of the eurozone.

While warning there would be no “magic solution” that would allow Greece to emerge from its economic crisis quickly, Tsipras promised in his victory speech that he would overturn entrenched politics and support long-struggling Greeks.

The polling, in which SYRIZA garnered 35.5 per cent of the votes compared with the conservative New Democracy’s 28, had the lowest turnout in modern Greek history with less than 57 per cent of the electorate casting ballots.

Dimitris Toliakis, a 47-year-old bakery owner who supported the Communist party KKE until voting for SYRIZA in January, said Sunday’s election was the first in his life during which he didn’t cast a ballot.

“The politicians change faces, but they don’t change,” Toliakis said, adding that any candidate would have had to adopt the demands of international creditors or come up with a serious plan for exiting the eurozone.

The vote secured SYRIZA 145 seats in Parliament, including a 50-seat bonus for the party that came out in front. With the Independent Greeks’ 10 seats, the coalition can count on 155 seats in the 300-seat Parliament.

Over the next few months, Greece will be required to implement a programme of reforms agreed to in exchange for an 86-billion-euro (97-billion-dollar) bailout package. Among the most pressing policy changes Tsipras faces is bringing an end to capital controls that continue to inhibit financial transfers.

Greece’s economy has lost a quarter of its value over the past five years as politicians struggle to keep the government from bankruptcy with billions of euros of international financing. High unemployment, especially among youths, continues to haunt the prospect of a recovery.

Many Greeks are weary of austerity, and the government is straining to cope with thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who land on far-flung islands in the hopes of travelling on to Western Europe. Analysts have warned that the conditions favour radical views.

On Sunday, the extremist far-right Golden Dawn party, which has railed against the demands of creditors and promotes an anti-immigrant platform, crept forward in the polls, clinching 7 per cent of the vote and coming in third place.

To grapple with the mounting migration crisis, Tsipras will appoint a special migration minister, the state broadcaster ERT reported. He is also due to attend a migration summit Wednesday in Brussels after he forms a government. Greek analysts said he was expected to form an administration Tuesday.

Tsipras has promised to keep pursuing debt restructuring and clamp down on corruption. Otherwise, he is broadly expected to continue with promised reforms and move forward with ending bank capital controls that were implemented in early summer at the height of tense negotiations between Athens and Brussels.

“At least in the short run, the risk of renewed internal uproar appears contained as the new government will have strong incentives to proceed along the dictates of the memorandum,” ING analyst Paolo Pizzoli said.

Capital Economics analyst Jonathan Loynes said the biggest challenge was restructuring Greece’s debt, but he agreed that the outcome ensures support for sticking to the bailout.

“For Greece’s creditors, the outcome is probably preferable to dealing with yet another new government while a SYRIZA in opposition, presumably under a new leader, shifts back towards its anti-austerity origins,” Loynes said.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the institution is hoping for quick action on bailout-related reforms after the elections. The commission is one of three institutions that represented Greece’s creditors in bailout negotiations with Athens.

“It was under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras that Greece already committed to an ambitious programme of reforms to redress the Greek economy,” Schinas said. “The new government will now have the mandate to carry out these reforms.”