Alexis Tsipras, Greek 'Che Guevara' on the cusp of power

John Hadoulis
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras greets supporters after casting his vote in a polling station in Athens (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)

Athens (AFP) - Alexis Tsipras, the 40-year-old leader of radical left-wing party Syriza which is favourite to win Sunday's Greek election, has come a long way from his days as a Communist youth activist.

But the man who has become a figurehead for the challenge to the eurozone's austerity policies still retains a youthful dislike of ties and a passion for Che Guevara.

Tipped to be his country's youngest prime minister since 1865, 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.

Once a brash motorbike-riding Communist activist, the boyish father of two children has subtly modified his image as power and responsibility beckoned.

The nerdy glasses went long ago, the trademark Tintin-style crest of hair has been flattened, and, in another step towards premiership, Tsipras penned articles for German and Italian newspapers describing Greece's treatment at the hand of its EU-IMF creditors as "fiscal waterboarding".

He has made efforts to improve his command of English and sought to boost his international standing through meetings with Pope Francis, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and even German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble -- a man whose preoccupation with fiscal discipline he has often attacked.


- 'Denying reality' -


One thing has not changed -- his shirts are still open-necked. Relaxing with journalists on the day before voting, he joked: "I'll put a tie on when we get a haircut (debt reduction)."

Tsipras faced his first crisis in 2008 when Athens and other cities were rocked by youths protesting the fatal shooting of a teenage boy by a policeman.

Syriza gave political backing to the rioters but the move backfired with voters and in the next election the party received just 4.6 percent of the vote.

"(We) were the only political power to defend the right and causes of this uprising, and we paid for it," Tsipras later wrote.

But when the economic crisis engulfed Greece in 2010, plunging the country into the worst recession in memory, voters were more inclined to listen to Syriza.

Tsipras and his top staff have stressed that reforms demanded by the EU and the IMF in return for loans designed to stave off bankruptcy have caused a "humanitarian crisis" in Greece.

He has accused the conservative-led coalition government of "denying reality" by "dogmatically" adhering to a failed austerity recipe that has left over a million people unemployed in a country of 11 million. The jobless rate among the under-25s is especially high at around 50 percent.

In three years, Syriza has increased its support five-fold and went into the general election polling at over 30 percent.

The outgoing conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras have argued that a victory for Syriza would reverse years of painful fiscal efforts just as Greece is about to reap the benefits.

But Tsipras has turned the argument on its head, wondering how the conservatives could possibly promise to safeguard Greek incomes after imposing a barrage of taxes in the last two years.

"The only thing they have not said is that Syriza will round up children and steal wives," he joked at one rally.

Syriza pledge to raise salaries and pensions, halt layoffs and freeze the privatisation of state assets -- key elements of reforms demanded by Greece's EU-IMF creditors.

Even more crucially for its relations with Greece's EU peers, the party wants to renegotiate the 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) EU-IMF bailout, erase over 50 percent of the country's enormous debt and divert bond repayment funds to the country's economic recovery.

Their critics say these are impossible demands, but Syriza maintain that Greece's creditors will agree to renegotiate the bailout when faced with a leftist government elected with a strong popular mandate.

  • ‘They let him get away with murder’: Dems tormented over how to stop Bernie
    Politico

    ‘They let him get away with murder’: Dems tormented over how to stop Bernie

    With Bernie Sanders gaining steam a week before the Iowa caucuses, tormented Democrats are second-guessing what they say was a hands-off strategy against the Vermont senator in the 2020 primary. They fear a repeat of 2016 is in the making — when mainstream Republicans scoffed at the idea that Donald Trump could ever win the nomination, until he became unstoppable — only this time from the left. The Republican money people were laughing at Trump when he came down the escalator and they kept laughing at him for way too long, until 'holy crap' he's winning primaries,” Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way told POLITICO.

  • There Is No Going Back If Iran Sinks A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier
    The National Interest

    There Is No Going Back If Iran Sinks A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

    Key point: The will to prepare is as important as the will to win, yet for too long, the United States has neglected a focused and disciplined approach to properly resourcing the U.S. Navy's fleet. The recent oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman reinforce the need to reestablish a highly visible U.S. naval deterrent in the Middle East. For eight months last year, no aircraft carrier strike group plied the region, the longest such interruption this millennium.

  • Government records show that Kobe Bryant's helicopter used to be owned by the state of Illinois
    Business Insider

    Government records show that Kobe Bryant's helicopter used to be owned by the state of Illinois

    Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA Classic/Getty Images The basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Bryant was known to get around using a private helicopter, most recently a Sikorsky S-76B. The helicopter was owned and operated by a company called Island Express, Federal Aviation Administration records show, and was previously owned by the state of Illinois. Visit Insider's homepage for more.

  • Associated Press

    Virginia woman gets life in WVa man's decapitation death

    A Virginia woman was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole Monday in the death of a West Virginia man who was decapitated. Roena Cheryl Mills, 43, of Rural Retreat, Virginia, was sentenced for her December conviction on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Bo White, 29, of Lenore, news outlets reported. White's body was found at his home in April 2018 while his head was found in nearby woods.

  • What's in a Moon Name?: A Guide to Lunar Labels
    Popular Mechanics

    What's in a Moon Name?: A Guide to Lunar Labels

    Your guide to watching the moon... in all its forms. From Popular Mechanics

  • British man dies in US immigration detention centre
    The Independent

    British man dies in US immigration detention centre

    Officials in the UK have confirmed they are looking into reports that a British man has died while in the custody of US immigration authorities. Reports said a 39-year-old had been found dead while being held in Florida by the enforcement of arm of the nation's border agency, known as ICE. BuzzFeed News, which was the first to report the death, said ICE has expanded the number of people it detains to record levels under the presidency of Donald Trump.

  • How the world discovered the Nazi death camps
    AFP

    How the world discovered the Nazi death camps

    Images of what the Allies found when they liberated the first Nazi death camps towards the end of World War II brought the horror of the Holocaust to global attention. Many of the ghastly pictures were at first held back from the broader public, partly out of concern for those with missing relatives. The concentration and extermination camps were liberated one by one as the Allied armies advanced on Berlin in the final days of the 1939-1945 war.

  • CDC Split With China on Coronavirus Spread as Possible U.S. Cases Hit 110
    The Daily Beast

    CDC Split With China on Coronavirus Spread as Possible U.S. Cases Hit 110

    As authorities in China scrambled to handle a coronavirus that has killed at least 81 people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday described a surging potential crisis even as they pushed back on the latest thinking from Beijing about just how easily it spreads. Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that the number of confirmed cases stateside had reached five—and that there had been a total of 110 “persons under investigation” for the virus in 26 states over the past week. Thirty-two of those people tested negative, and there had been no confirmed person-to-person transmissions inside the country, Messonnier said on Monday.

  • Coronavirus 'has become rampant,' but shows no signs of mutating into deadlier form
    The Week

    Coronavirus 'has become rampant,' but shows no signs of mutating into deadlier form

    China's central government announced Sunday that it's taking the reins in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus from local officials in Hubei province, home to the virus' city of origin, Wuhan. Ma Xiaowei, the head of the country's National Health Commission, said "we are now in a critical period of prevention and control." It appears the coronavirus is becoming more contagious — Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, said experts will likely soon confirm another 1,000 infection cases.

  • Supreme Court allows Trump's 'public charge' immigration curb
    Yahoo News Video

    Supreme Court allows Trump's 'public charge' immigration curb

    The Supreme Court gave the go-ahead on Monday for one of President Trump's hard-line immigration policies, allowing his administration to implement a rule denying legal permanent residency to certain immigrants deemed likely to require government assistance in the future.

  • A Dangerous Game: Russia and America Keep Flying Their Planes Near Each Other's Borders
    The National Interest

    A Dangerous Game: Russia and America Keep Flying Their Planes Near Each Other's Borders

    Key point: During the Cold War, Moscow and Washington also tested each other's nerves and resolve by flying close by. Six Russian Tu-95 heavy bombers and several Russian Su-35 fighters probed U.S. air-defenses on May 20 and May 21, 2019, prolonging a period of aerial tension between the Moscow and Washington. U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighters and supporting aircraft on both days peacefully intercepted the Russian planes.

  • Kobe Bryant's helicopter crashed in foggy conditions considered so dangerous that the LAPD grounded all its flights
    Business Insider

    Kobe Bryant's helicopter crashed in foggy conditions considered so dangerous that the LAPD grounded all its flights

    The NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning. The fog conditions were so bad that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its flights that morning, deeming it too dangerous to fly. Flight-tower audio recordings published by TMZ showed aviation authorities telling the helicopter pilot he was flying "too low" at some point during Sunday's flight.

  • Iranian general warns of retaliation if US threats continue
    Associated Press

    Iranian general warns of retaliation if US threats continue

    The chief of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Monday that it will retaliate against American and Israeli commanders if the U.S. continues to threaten top Iranian generals. The U.S. killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who headed the expeditionary Quds force, in a drone strike outside of Baghdad's airport in Iraq on Jan. 3. Five days later, Iran retaliated by launching ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing American troops, causing injuries but no fatalities among soldiers there.

  • Sanders Leads, Klobuchar Climbs and Buttigieg Drops in Iowa
    Bloomberg

    Sanders Leads, Klobuchar Climbs and Buttigieg Drops in Iowa

    Senator Amy Klobuchar has broken into the top three Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa for the first time, a poll released Sunday showed. It was the third poll of the day to show her rival, Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner in an early state. An Emerson University poll showed Sanders leading in Iowa with 30% while Joe Biden followed with 21%.

  • Trump team turns Senate trial into extended Obama-Biden attack
    Politico

    Trump team turns Senate trial into extended Obama-Biden attack

    President Donald Trump turned the Senate floor Monday into an alternate-reality impeachment of his political rivals: Joe Biden and Barack Obama. While senators debated the Trump impeachment behind closed doors — a process now defined by whether they'll agree to allow new witnesses to testify — his lawyers shed any pretense of persuading a band of centrist Republicans to side with the president and instead acted out a virtual prosecution of Trump's top political nemeses. For about two hours on Monday, Trump's attorneys Pam Bondi and Eric Herschmann argued that it was Biden and Obama who should be investigated for corruption or abuse of power, laying out a case thick with political innuendo that has been sharply refuted by sworn witnesses during the House's impeachment inquiry late last year.

  • Judges rebuke Macron for criticism over case of murdered Jewish woman
    AFP

    Judges rebuke Macron for criticism over case of murdered Jewish woman

    French President Emmanuel Macron drew a sharp rebuke from the country's top magistrates on Monday for criticising a court ruling on the 2017 murder of a Jewish woman in Paris. Sarah Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, died after being pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great" in Arabic). Her murder stoked debate over a new strain of anti-Semitism among radicalised Muslim youths in predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods.

  • Confusion as WHO corrects China virus global risk level
    AFP Relax News

    Confusion as WHO corrects China virus global risk level

    The World Health Organization, which has sometimes been criticised for its handling of past disease outbreaks, admitted an error on Monday in its risk assessment of China's deadly virus. The Geneva-based UN agency said in a situation report Sunday that the risk was "very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level." In a footnote, the WHO explained that it had stated "incorrectly" in its previous reports on Thursday, Friday and Saturday that the global risk was "moderate".

  • 'Chernobyl 2020:' Chinese people are comparing the government's delayed response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak to the Chernobyl disaster and the HBO series about it
    INSIDER

    'Chernobyl 2020:' Chinese people are comparing the government's delayed response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak to the Chernobyl disaster and the HBO series about it

    China Daily via Reuters Chinese people are criticizing local authorities' delayed response to the Wuhan coronavirus online, comparing its handling of the outbreak to how the Soviet Union mishandled the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Some referred to the Wuhan virus outbreak as "Chernobyl 2020" and made comments that Chinese people were "witnessing history" repeat itself. The comments appeared on a Chinese film review website in discussion groups for HBO's miniseries "Chernobyl" — a rare instance of open dissent in one of the most censored countries in the world.

  • North Korean Leader's Aunt Re-Emerges After Husband's Execution
    The New York Times

    North Korean Leader's Aunt Re-Emerges After Husband's Execution

    The aunt of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, has re-emerged in Pyongyang, the capital, the country's media said Sunday, dispelling rumors that she was purged after her powerful husband was executed on charges of plotting a coup to topple Kim in 2013. North Korea's state-run media said Kim Kyong Hui, the only sister of Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, accompanied her nephew to an orchestra performance Saturday for Lunar New Year's Day. Photos released in state media showed her dressed in black and sitting with her nephew, his wife, his sister and other top leaders in the front row at a theater in Pyongyang.

  • Why The Ninth Circut Court Reluctantly Dismissed The Kids' Climate Case
    The National Interest

    Why The Ninth Circut Court Reluctantly Dismissed The Kids' Climate Case

    A big assist is due the Supreme Court, which bench‐​slapped some sense into the Ninth Circuit. In 2015, a group of children filed suit in a federal district court in Oregon, alleging that the federal government infringed on on their putative constitutional right to a climate unaffected by anthropogenic global warming. For starters, it's not terribly plausible to claim there's an unenumerated constitutional right to a specific atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.

  • Photos show the horrors of Auschwitz, 75 years after its liberation
    Business Insider

    Photos show the horrors of Auschwitz, 75 years after its liberation

    Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Auschwitz I, the first camp to undergo construction, was initially created for three reasons: to imprison enemies, to use forced labor, and to kill certain groups of people. Markus Schreiber/AP Sources: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Auschwitz‑Birkenau Memorial and State Museum Construction of the largest camp, Auschwitz II, also called Auschwitz-Birkenau, began in October 1941. Electrified barbed wire divided it into 10 different sections.

  • NY, feds sue 'Pharma Bro' for 'scheme' to keep drug price up
    Associated Press

    NY, feds sue 'Pharma Bro' for 'scheme' to keep drug price up

    State and federal authorities sued imprisoned entrepreneur Martin Shkreli on Monday over tactics that shielded a profitable drug from competition after a price hike made the so-called “Pharma Bro” infamous. Shkreli was scorned as the bad-boy face of pharmaceuticals profiteering after he engineered a roughly 4,000% increase in the price of a decades-old medication for a sometimes life-threatening parasitic infection. Monday's lawsuit, filed by the New York attorney general's office and the Federal Trade Commission, centers on subsequent actions by Shkreli and his former company.

  • Navistar loses lawsuit against US Army and Oshkosh over vehicle buys
    Defense News

    Navistar loses lawsuit against US Army and Oshkosh over vehicle buys

    The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has ruled in favor of the U.S. Army's decision to go with only one source for its Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles for more than 10 years, denying Navistar's lawsuit brought against the service and FMTV-maker Oshkosh Defense for not competitively procuring the vehicle. Following the Army's initial five-year contract to buy FMTVs from Oshkosh, the service chose a sole-source procurement route with the company, arguing it didn't have time to reopen competition because of urgent needs. Since 2009, the Army has spent more than $6 billion on FMTVs from Oshkosh.

  • Team Trump Settles on Its Impeachment Defense: A Healthy Dose of Lib Triggering
    The Daily Beast

    Team Trump Settles on Its Impeachment Defense: A Healthy Dose of Lib Triggering

    The Senate impeachment trial hadn't been in session for an hour on Monday before the man famous for his drive to impeach Bill Clinton was lecturing senators on the solemn nature of impeachment and bemoaning the politicization of the process. Like war, impeachment is hell—or at least, presidential impeachment is hell, said Kenneth Starr, the special counsel who investigated Clinton for years and who now served as part of President Donald Trump's defense team. His words carried not a whiff of irony.

  • US military jet crashes in Taliban territory in Afghanistan
    AFP

    US military jet crashes in Taliban territory in Afghanistan

    A US military jet crashed in mountainous territory in eastern Afghanistan, where there is a heavy Taliban presence, the Pentagon confirmed Monday, rejecting the insurgents' suggestions that it was shot down. Afghanistan US Forces spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett confirmed in a statement that the aircraft was a US Bombardier E-11A, a type of jet used as a military airborne communications node in the region. "While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire," Leggett said.