The return of Tsipras

shutterstock_230789242-webSunday’s snap election in Greece has resulted in victory for Syriza and Alexis Tsipras, who returns as Prime Minister with a 7.5% margin over his opponent, New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis. While pre-election polls had them neck and neck, in the end Syriza fell just five seats short of an overall majority and will renew the coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) to command 155 out of the parliament’s 300 seats.

The elections were precipitated by rebellious Syriza MPs who were opposed to the third bailout agreement, but it seems that the rebels’ gambit has not paid off. High-profile Syriza dissidents such as former Energy Minister Lafazanis and former parliament speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou were just two of the casualties to have lost their seats under the banner of their new pro-drachma party which failed to pass the 3% threshold and secure any seats.

Tsipras’s win can be seen as a personal vindication for a prime minister who has won a grudging respect of the populace for his bailout negotiating efforts. He will also be grudgingly, and one suspects, rather quietly, welcomed in European capitals, as he has reaffirmed his commitment to implement reforms and tackle corruption. European Council President Donald Tusk and Commissioner chief Jean-Claude Juncker have both urged Tsipras to demonstrate leadership and deliver on his bailout promises, while European Commissioner responsible for the euro Valdis Dombrovskis urged him to form a government quickly.

Whether Tsipras will manage to successfully implement those reforms is an open question, and the very high percentage of voter abstention (43.91%) reflects the deep disagreements and discontent that run through the electorate. While Tsipras says his government has a mandate to govern for the full four years, Greek commentators foresee continued instability in the country as the government tries to implement the third bailout.

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