Kasselakis, the new face of greek politics: what it means for Syriza?
Changement’s wind from Greece? Seems so, after Stefanos Kasselakis, the Greek-American naval entrepreneur and former Goldman Sachs executive, has made a surprising entry into the Greek political scene by winning the race to lead Syriza, the country’s main opposition party. This unexpected outcome has made Kasselakis, with no prior political experience in Greece, one of the most influential figures in the entire Hellenic country.
Aged 35, Kasselakis declared his candidacy just four weeks ago and clinched 56.69% of the votes, surpassing Efi Achtsioglou, a former Minister of Labor who had long been considered the favorite, and who garnered 43.31% of the votes. Kasselakis’ triumph prompted celebrations in front of Syriza’s Athens headquarters, where he thanked his supporters and stressed the significance of shared hope for the nation’s future.
Kasselakis will take the Alexis Tsipras’s role
His entry into the race for leadership of Syriza came after the resignation of Alexis Tsipras, who had chaired the party for the past 15 years. Tsipras decided to step back following Syriza’s defeats in the May and June general elections. Throughout the electoral process, Tsipras remained neutral and refused to support any of the candidates, even after Kasselakis’ surprising first-round victory last week.
The turnout for Syriza’s internal elections was notable, with approximately 133,600 voters across 537 polling stations throughout the country. Syriza’s leaders described this high turnout as an indicator of the desire for a strong and revitalized opposition party, in contrast to a government that some consider unfriendly to workers’ and social rights.
Kasselakis, whose ties to Syriza prior to this year are unknown, moved to Athens only a few months ago, settling in the capital with his American husband, Tyler McBeth. During his victory speech, Kasselakis thanked McBeth, who has a nursing background, and referred to him as “my personal family.”
Kasselakis can make changes to the party
The new leader of Syriza has expressed the intention to make significant changes to the party, a progressive alliance that includes Marxists, Eurocommunists, ecologists, and social democrats. Kasselakis has proposed that the party adopt the model of a “big-tent party” in the American style to regain power.
Among his political proposals are the “drastic” reduction of taxes for both public and private sector employees, the separation of church and state, judicial reforms, granting citizenship to the children of immigrants born and raised in Greece, and the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, Kasselakis has faced criticism for the lack of a detailed program, which some see as an opaque and all-encompassing approach.
Kasselakis’ victory has shaken the Greek political landscape and left traditional Syriza militants perplexed.