“The heart of the people of Europe beats in Greece” — a discussion held in Athens on June 3 in which Slavoj Žižek spoke alongside Alexis Tsipras whose victory in the June 17 elections will — if it happens — send shockwaves around the world.
The Guardian reports: In his fresh linen suit and crisp white shirt Alexis Tsipras cuts a dashing figure. Standing at the podium, just a week before Greeks cast their ballots in the most crucial election since their country emerged from the ashes of civil war, the young leftist leader was on vintage form, fists punching the air as the crowd cheered on the man many have come to see as Greece’s salvation in its greatest hour of need.
On Sunday it was Chios. On Monday, Heraklion, the capital of Crete. On Tuesday, Athens. But as Tsipras criss-crosses the country, the message is always the same: “We speak the language of hope,” he says, “where others speak the language of fear.”
In the countdown to a poll, the outcome of which could be as pivotal for Europe as for debt-stricken Athens — with many seeing it as a referendum on Greece’s place in the euro — the politician is on a roll.
The language of hope is what Tsipras is good at. More than two years into an economic crisis that is increasingly being compared to a war, Tsipras’ fiery, feel-good, anti-austerity rhetoric has gone down a treat. So, too, have his fierce denunciations of the corrupt political elite, crooked bankers and barbaric measures that have led to Greece’s “undignified” descent into penury and misery.
Like every war, says the telegenic politician, the first casualty is truth. The Greeks — the eurozone’s poorest nation despite living standards having improved dramatically since joining the single currency — have been duped into thinking that there is only one way out of their economic mess: “through the cruel austerity Madame Merkel and the IMF have inflicted upon us”.
The truth, he argues, lies elsewhere: in the ability to think outside the box; in solutions that are “just and dignified”. The “memorandum of understanding” outlining the onerous conditions Greece must meet to acquire EU-IMF loans to keep its insolvent economy afloat has to be “radically renegotiated” if not “torn up”.
It is heady stuff. Six weeks ago, Tsipras was barely known beyond the borders of his homeland. Today, his Coalition of the Radical Left, Syriza, is one of the frontrunners in the battle to govern Greece after the indecisive election on 6 May.
Since emerging as that poll’s surprise runner-up, Syriza – an eclectic alliance of ex-communists, former Stalinists, greens and champagne socialists – has gone from strength to strength. Surveys show it running neck and neck with the “pro-European”, centre-right New Democracy, although no party is expected to win an outright majority. In Athens, where nearly half of Greece’s 11 million-strong population lives and which has been worst hit by the belt-tightening, Syriza has stolen the show.
As Tsipras storms from town to village, addressing peoples assemblies and pre-electoral rallies, his is a presence that suddenly nobody can ignore: from Washington to the capitals of Europe and Asia, too, Syriza’s meteoric rise from fringe party to possible kingmaker in the next Greek parliament is now being watched closely.