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Alexis Tsipras of Syriza is far from Greek orthodox: The Communist 'Harry Potter' who could implode the Eurozone

The victorious leader of the Greek left-wing coalition may be just 40, but Tsipras could change Europe forever

Helen Nianias
Wednesday 21 January 2015 17:12 GMT
Tsipras has pledged to reverse austerity measures
Tsipras has pledged to reverse austerity measures

Alexis Tsipras is a former Communist and committed anti-austerity cheerleader and has been compared to Harry Potter. He won Sunday's election and is now poised to radically change Europe. Here's what you need to know about him.

Boy wizard

Tsipras, leader of Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left), was likened to JK Rowling's fictional wizard by Greece's now-deposed deputy prime minister, right-wing Evangelos Venizelos, for making fantastical promises that he won't be able to keep. He said: "Tsipras promises paradise on earth without sacrifices, a return to prosperity in some sort of magical way, as if he was Harry Potter."


By Tsipras says this is not true. In his victory speech on Sunday night, he declared an end to the "vicious cycle of austerity". According to AP, an ecstatic Tsipras said: "The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate. Greece has turned a page. Greece is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain."

His campaign slogan, "hope is coming", clearly resonated with the Greek public, after years of low employment and high taxation. Tsipras' most inspiring promise was to restore "dignity" to the people of Greece.

Unorthodox family life

Still with his family sweetheart, and still unmarried, Tsipras and partner Peristera Batziaka have been together for two decades and have two young sons. They met at school, and became members of the Communist Youth of Greece. The couple even named their second son after Ernesto Che Guevara. Batziaka has been described by the Greek media as "strong-willed, militant and dynamic" as well as publicity-shy. Tsipras will be the first unmarried Greek prime minister - a big change for a socially conservative country.


It's no shock that a 40-year-old might not have too much experience as the leader of a nation, but it's made some nervous. "Syriza's trump card is this: he has never ruled and was not 'in charge' of the crisis," Venizelos told La Stampa.

"Technically, the debt is sustainable, we pay 40 per cent less interest than in 2010. And this is exactly the point of disagreement with Syriza, which argues that the debt is unsustainable because Greece will never be able to repay it all." Arguing this this is no time for optimistic rhetoric, Venizelos added: "The problems remain and they beg for solutions."


Tsipras stands out from conventional politicians. He says he "hates" neck ties and has a more informal manner with supporters than his rivals. German newspaper Spiegel describe him as walking "up to the lectern like Elvis strutting onstage".

Brussels is nervous

Tsipras has pledged to reverse the austerity measures imposed on Greece, and many fear he will refuse to repay the €240 billion (£184 billion) that Greece owes creditors. Tsipras has said: "Austerity is not part of the European treaties; democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty are." Writing in the Financial Times on Wednesday, he said: "A Syriza government will respect Greece’s obligation, as a eurozone member, to maintain a balanced budget, and will commit to quantitative targets."

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned against Greece trying to haggle down the debt last week in an interview with the Irish Times: "Collective endeavours are welcome," she said, "but at the same time a debt is a debt and it is a contract."

People power

By promising to raise the minimum wage, give food and electricity and create 300,000 new jobs, Tsipras became incredibly popular with struggling Greeks. Around a quarter of the Greek population is unemployed, and over 200,000 Greeks have left the country since the financial crisis, which started in 2010. Since jobs were cut, prostitution had soared by 150 per cent by 2013, with reports of some women forced to sell their bodies for just €5 a go. There's no doubt that Tspiras' anti-austerity promises captured the public's heart.

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