Alexis Tsipras, boyish PM out to restore Greek dignity

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Athens | Published: January 27, 2015 6:50:48 AM

Alexis Tsipras is on a mission to restore Greece's dignity after winning yesterday's general election and becoming...

Alexis Tsipras is on a mission to restore Greece’s dignity after winning yesterday’s general election and becoming his country’s youngest prime minister in 150 years.

The 40-year-old father of two children brings to the job a burning passion to dump the austerity policies that his party says have brought a “humanitarian crisis” to Greece, and he knows he has little time to lose.

“It would be good to speed up the procedure because we have an uphill road ahead,” he told President Karolos Papoulias as he received his mandate to form a government.

On his first day as prime minister, Tsipras showed he is big on symbolism.

His first act following his investiture was to lay flowers at the Kaisariani shooting range in Athens, where dozens of Greek leftists were executed by German occupation troops in 1944.

Tsipras also became the first Greek prime minister to take a civil rather than religious oath of office, and to dispense with a tie at the ceremony.

In his victory speech yesterday, he pledged to end the “humiliation” and “vicious circle” of austerity for the good of Greece and other European nations.

The young leader will govern in a coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks party after securing 149 seats in yesterday’s election, two short of the required majority in the 300-seat parliament.

Tsipras, whose party was just 170,000 votes short of victory in the 2012 election, has come a long way from his days as a Communist youth activist.

The Greek public first learned his name in 1990 when as a 17-year-old he led a school sit-in and told a TV interviewer: “We want the right to judge for ourselves whether to skip class.”

An engineer by training, Tsipras was born in an Athens suburb in July 1974, a fateful year for Greece. It marked the collapse of a seven-year army dictatorship that mercilessly persecuted leftists and Communists, and culminated in a bloody crackdown against a student uprising.

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