Tsipras to be sworn in as Greek prime minister after surprise win


Athens (dpa) – Alexis Tsipras was set Monday to be sworn in for the second time as prime minister of Greece, party sources said, as he promised to take steps to repair the near-bankrupt nation’s finances.

“Now we have the possibility to climb in the long run,” Tsipras said Monday before meeting with Panos Kammenos, the leader of likely junior coalition partner Independent Greeks.

“Many thought that this would be leftist intermezzo – that is not the case,” he said.

“We now have an important opportunity to plan the four years, so that we can get our people out of these difficult times,” said Tsipras, who met Monday afternoon with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to receive a formal mandate allowing him to take office.

Among the most pressing policy changes he faces is bringing an end to capital controls that continue to inhibit financial transfers.

On Sunday, he claimed a surprise election victory that belied most neck-and-neck forecasts, clinching nearly as many votes as when he rose to power on an anti-austerity platform in January.

With nearly all the ballots counted, his SYRIZA party garnered more than 35 per cent of the vote versus conservative rival New Democracy’s 28 per cent. The far-right party Golden Dawn came in third with 7 per cent.

Tsipras triggered the snap election when he resigned in mid-August after passing a slew of difficult reform measures in Parliament by relying on the opposition. Their passage was required for fresh financing from Greece’s international creditors.

After he resigned, the anti-austerity, anti-euro factions in SYRIZA branched off to form their own party, but on Sunday, it only garnered 2.86 per cent – not enough to enter Parliament.

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.

Voter turnout was historically low with 56.5 per cent coming out to the polls. Dimitris Toliakis, a 47-year-old bakery owner who supported the Communist party KKE until voting for SYRIZA in January, said Sunday was the first election in his life during which he didn’t cast a ballot.

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

Golden Dawn, some of whose members are facing charges for forming a criminal organization, crept forward in the polls on its anti-euro, anti-immigrant platform.

As the country grapples with a mounting migration crisis that has seen thousands of migrants and refugees land on its far-flung islands – occasionally overwhelming local resources – state broadcaster ERT reported that Tsipras would appoint a special migration minister to coordinate Greece’s response.

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 a government Tuesday.

Over the next few months, Greece will be required to implement a programme of reforms agreed to in exchange for a 86-billion-euro (97-billion-dollar) bailout package.

Tsipras, who has promised to keep pursuing debt restructuring, said during his victory speech Sunday that he would also clamp down on corruption within the country.

Nevertheless, he was 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.”