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Greek election upset ripples reach Vienna

The Local · 26 Jan 2015, 01:29

Published: 26 Jan 2015 01:29 GMT+01:00

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The weekend's result in Athens was an historical win for Syriza, Greece's anti-austerity, leftist party on Sunday night which means all bets are off. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of what has been described as representing the radical left in mid-crisis Greece has been hailed as the unquestionable winner of the weekend's election, despite an ongoing question about whether or not full autonomy has been won.  The current status gives the party 36.5 percent of the overall vote with 149 to 151 seats in the Greek Parliament.

The fear remains that, despite being the undisputed winner of this election, Syriza may fall short of the 150 seats that are needed for autonomy. It is estimated to be a thriller until Monday morning. If they fall short, then the only way they can govern is to form a coalition with one of the smaller parties.

Nevertheless, Syriza's victory is very clear cut, and if Tsipras is able to build a workable coalition, it will make him at 40 one of the youngest Greek prime ministers of the past 50 years.

“The verdict of the Greek people ends, beyond any doubt, the vicious circle of austerity in our country,” Tsipras said. “The verdict of the Greek people, your verdict, annuls today in an indisputable fashion the bailout agreements of austerity and disaster. The verdict of the Greek people renders the troika a thing of the past for our common European framework” said Tsipras, addressing the crowd after his victory.

Already reactions have been cautious, yet mostly positive, both from the voters celebrating in the streets and from officials stating their willingness to work together with the newly elected party in order to come to a viable solution, even though stern words of warning were promptly issued as well.

For example the words of the President of the German Bundesbank Jens Weidmann, said “I hope the new government won’t call into question what is expected and what has already been achieved,” long before the results had been crystallized.

The former Prime Minister of Greece Antonis Samaras conceded defeat and congratulated the new leadership, but not before offering a few words of caution concerning the proposed plan of action and emphasizing that their line of governance was the prudent way to go even if it was not popular, while admitting to at least some mistakes along the way.

Greece voted for change. It was hardly a surprise to some of the young Greeks living in Austria, speaking to The Local.

“Since things are not working, perhaps we should try another approach,” said Maria, a teacher who has lived in Vienna for five years.

“They forced us out of our country. It may seem like it was our choice to leave but it was not,” says Theodora.

“I am afraid that words are words. And we heard words again and again but we have not seen action. We have not been told the truth for years. Of course we are sceptical. We want things to be better. We don't just want someone to pat us on the back and say it is all going to be fine,” said Penelope.

What is really disturbing, nevertheless, is once again the high percentage received by Greece's neo-Nazi party. At this stage it seems that despite the bad publicity it received over a year and a half ago when verified members of the party murdered a Greek citizen, and in spite of criminal procedures pending against them, their presence in the Greek political reality signifies more than just the protest vote, as they are projected to finish third in the race.

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That would be ahead of the newly founded centre-left-liberal party “To potami” (the River), a party catering to the moderate vote, which may in fact prove pivotal for a possible formation of government as it has not ruled out the possibility of a coalition with Syriza.

Greeks in Vienna have been watching events closely despite the fact that unlike citizens of most other countries residing in Austria, they did not have the right to vote remotely, and their reaction was one of cautious optimism. Most welcomed the news of a change, but some were sceptical that any change will really happen.

Mostly it was about punishing – and banishing – the current political reality. And hoping that the new state of things will treat them with more dignity than before. There was excitement and hope regarding the election results but that doesn't mean that Tsipras has it easy. He will be judged swiftly and harshly if he does not deliver. People seem to have had enough of empty promises.

Whether Tsipras is capable of bringing to fruition what he has been promising remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, he has assumed control of a country that has ran out of allowances – or at least should have – and history has a place for him one way or the other. 

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