PARIS - Europe is giving an overall thumbs-up to the electoral victory of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras - the man whose anti-austerity agenda once sparked sharp criticism. Tsipras has since signed on to many measures he once opposed. And today, many in the 28-member European Union hope he has the mandate to push through tough reforms.
European Union leaders and top officials endorsed Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party finishing first-place in snap parliamentary elections Sunday with tweets, statements and in interviews. Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said he is looking forward to moving ahead with Greek reforms under a new bailout deal. French President Francois Hollande said the win marked a significant success for Tsipras.
Chief economist for the London-based Center for European Reform Christian Odendahl says many observers aren’t surprised by the results. Now, he adds, comes the hard part.
“The biggest issue that Tsipras will now [face] will be debt relief. He put it at the top of his agenda. But the problem is that the Europeans are not going to comprise much unless he tackles some of the tough reforms and austerity measures that have been agreed in the last deal,” Odendahl says.
With 35.5 percent of the votes, Syriza’s win is commanding but not overwhelming. Analyst Janis Emmanouilidis, of the European Policy Center in Brussels, notes the far-right Golden Dawn party placed third in the results, with 7 percent of the vote.
“That shows you also that the discontent with the refugee crisis - something that was not much attention attributed to during the election campaign - it had a positive effect for Golden Dawn,” Emmanouilidis says.
After six years of austerity, ordinary Greeks now face the prospect of more belt-tightening under Tsipras. Economist Odendahl says the election results aren't an endorsement of EU bailout terms, but rather show just how desperate voters are for stability.