Supporters of Greek anti-austerity party Syriza wildly cheered Sunday’s election victory, confident that the first-ever victory by a leftist party in Greece would help turn back austerity in Europe.
Red and white flags emblazoned with Syriza’s tricolour motif waved outside the main party platform in central Athens, where hundreds of supporters gathered as election results poured in.
Many Syriza supporters said they were pinning their hopes on party leader Alexis Tsipras turning the country around after six years of recession which led to a massive international bailout.
“The time of the Left has come,” the crowd chanted.
“It’s a new team and its policy programme has us smiling,” said Eleni Papadopoulou, a 43-year-old private sector employee.
“We had a very difficult time during the crisis. I hope this will change,” she told AFP.
There was also jubilation in Athamanio, a mountain village in the northwestern region of Epirus, where Tsipras’ paternal ancestors hail from, with locals dancing at the village coffee shop.
“Alexis, our brave lad, bring on the sunshine,” the village residents sang as one local man played a lute.
Syriza wants to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) bailout deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund which the party says is stifling any chance Greece has of economic recovery.
“The new Greek government will be ready to cooperate and negotiate… with our peers a just, mutually beneficial and viable solution,” Tsipras told thousands of supporters in Athens, but he insisted that “disastrous austerity” and a “five-year humiliation” for Greece were at an end.
“Troika, keep calm and go to hell,” read a banner at the Syriza platform, referring to the three creditors — the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF.
– ‘New kind of politics’ –
The leftists also intend to raise the minimum salary by nearly 30 percent to 751 euros, give an extra monthly stipend to poor pensioners and guarantee access to free medical care.
“History is being written after 60 years in Greece and Europe,” said Antonis Balousis, a 54-year-old butcher.
“We are going to prove that a different kind of politics is possible in Europe,” he said.
Syriza’s victory is a welcome boost for anti-austerity parties across Europe, and leftist activists from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Argentina were in Athens to cherish the moment.
“What is happening here is an example for us,” said Claudia Moriggi, an activist from Rome.
“The left in Italy is scattered and has been unable to find a leader like Alexis Tsipras. Let us hope this will provide an impetus,” she said.
Fellow Italian Antonio Alicino noted that Syriza would need help to change the established mentality in Europe.
“Alone, they will be too isolated to succeed. We must show that a large section of European peoples stand behind them,” he said.
Among the foreign delegation stood Alejandro Bordart, a lawmaker from the Socialist Workers’ Party of Argentina, a country sharing Greece’s debt woes.
“I want to see if an alternative policy is possible, as Argentina has been grappling with the debt question for 30 years,” he said.