Greek 'Rage' the Best 'Weapon' Against European Austerity: Tsipras
In his first media interview since Sunday's parliament elections, Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greek's leftist Syriza party said that the record number of Greeks who supported his party's anti-austerity message indicates that the people's channeled 'rage' is having an enormous and important impact on events across Europe.
"Greece needs courageous and decisive leaders who can use the rage of our people...as a weapon to negotiate for the benefit of the country", he said and lambasted those who had tried to blame the economic crisis on 'lazy Greeks.'
"All those people," he continued, "are now seeing the problems in Spain and Italy too. Something else is wrong."
Tsipras told Reuters he and his party, which is a political bloc of 12 leftist groups, has opposed the terms of the bailout because it didn't help ordinary Greeks who had suffered most from austerity and recession. "It is a bailout for banks and a sinking of the needs of the real economy and society," he said.
"Greece needs courageous and decisive leaders who can use the rage of our people...as a weapon to negotiate for the benefit of the country." --Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA party
Syriza came in 2.5 percentage points behind the conservative and pro-bailout New Democracy party on Sunday. The traditional socialist PASOK party came in third place, but will likely form a unity coalition with New Democracy. Ongoing coalition talks continued today, but reports indicate that completion of a deal will not be announced until Wednesday.
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"What Syriza has been saying all along is that the bailout plan is not viable and cannot go on," party chief Alexis Tsipras told Reuters in his first interview since last Sunday's parliamentary election. "Now they all recognize this."
Indeed, the conservative New Democracy party won the most seats in the new parliament on a promise to push through spending cuts imposed by European authorities. But after the vote, party chief Antonis Samaras said the eurozone's memorandum of understanding with Greece over its 130-billion-euro bailout should be modified.
Tsipras, a charismatic 37-year-old former student communist, predicted that the newly elected Greek government would fail because it was based on "spent political forces", paving the way for Syriza to assume power.
New Democracy and the centre-left PASOK party have taken turns ruling Greece since the country's military dictatorship ended in 1974 and many citizens blame them for its current plight.
Syriza won 27 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, up from 17 percent at a previous inconclusive election in May. That made it the second largest party behind New Democracy and delighted its supporters, who partied late into the night outside Athens University after results came in.
Relaxed and confident in his Athens headquarters, where the waiting room sports a portrait of revolutionary icon Che Guevara, Tsipras said: "Nobody else but us can carry out the deep reforms the country needs because we are not corrupt or worn out. Sooner or later, we will get this opportunity."
Alternative Political Movement
Tsipras said Syriza's rapid rise showed how Greeks were channeling their rage at the austerity measures - which have sent the economy into a deep recession and pushed unemployment close to 23 percent - into an alternative political movement.
Given public anger at Greece's long-established parties, he added, "if Syriza didn't exist today the alternative would be extremes, chaos and Golden Dawn," a neo-Nazi party.
"We will prepare a lot better to exercise a much more combative and responsible opposition," he pledged. "And, obviously, to organize to be able to claim government when the opportunity arises."
Syriza's key demands are for wealthy tax evaders to be taxed, and for what Tsipras calls "huge and unbelievable waste in the public sector" to be stamped out, by making it function more effectively.
"We have talked about the need to stop people collecting salaries for doing nothing, about reducing the number of ministers' advisers and government officials by half, and curtailing MPs and ministers' wages and privileges," he said.
Tsipras said he opposed the terms of the bailout because it didn't help ordinary Greeks who had suffered most from austerity and recession. "It is a bailout for banks and a sinking of the needs of the real economy and society," he said.
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