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Prime Minister Tsipras at a rally in Bologna. Prime Minister Tsipras at a rally in Bologna.

Syriza's Victory and the Youth of Europe

By Maria Zepatou

Prime Minister Tsipras at a rally in Bologna.

On the 26th of January 2015, Alexis Tsipras took his oath of office at the age of 40, which makes him the youngest prime minister in the history of Greece. Syriza, Coalition of the Radical Left, won the elections with an unprecedented 36.34%, missing an absolute majority by a mere two seats.

Meanwhile, 100,000 eighteen year-olds were denied the right to vote, because according to the previous right-wing government, New Democracy, there was no time for them to be registered in the electoral registers. In addition, thousands of young people who were forced to migrate to Europe during the crisis were not able to vote in embassies in their place of residence, but were obliged to fly to Greece in order to vote. It seems safe to say that New Democracy was afraid of young people’s preferences and did everything to block them, albeit unsuccessfully.

There’s a lot that Greek people expect from Syriza’s win. MP Dimitris Stratoulis has stated that in the first 100 days, the new government will bring the minimum salary back to 750 euros – from the 520 it has dropped to now – restore protective labor legislation, take measures about people with disabilities and more. For young people, who face an unemployment rate of 60%, there’s even more at stake. “It’s our dignity that we want to gain back,” says Esthir, a member of the Youth of Syriza. Youth organizers from all over Europe and even South America have come to Greece to see Syriza’s historical victory, and the first radical left government in Europe since the ’30s.

“Mostly it is hope that has been gained that we have to cherish, as motivation for people to join and be a stronger organisation. The hope is the best cure for hopelessness in hard times. What makes people go the extra mile, or any mile at all, in solidarity and sisterhood,” says Elin, member of the central board of the organization Young Left (Sweden), when asked what Syriza’s victory means for her as an organizer.

“And I myself want to stress the importance of left politics for the environment and in the fight against climate change. I dream of a Socialist Europe where equality and environment and climate issues are “mainstreamed” to be a part of every political decision, and I hope that with Syriza the people of Greece and others are a small step closer,” adds Heli from the Left Youth of Finland.

“In Finland I will try to agitate for the model of organization of Syriza. Not everything can or should be copied, but you guys have the right idea about a unified left. And not just only the communist and other left parties, but even more the social and popular movements. We should be in the street, in the schools, NGOs, churches even, everywhere people are, building a popular movement against austerity and the Right,” says Henrik, also from the Left Youth of Finland.

Indeed, Syriza, and especially the Youth of Syriza, has had a vital connection with all movements that resisted the neoliberal hurricane that Greek people have found themselves in during the last years. It has been in Chalkidiki, standing in solidarity with the local people that protested against the Canadian mines. It is in the yard of ERT, the public TV broadcaster that the previous government closed down with no warning — and which Syriza has committed to re-open. It stands hand in hand with the redundant cleaners that New Democracy fired – and Syriza just announced it will re-hire. It is this bilateral and respectful relationship with people’s movements that today allows Syriza to remove the iron railings in front of the Parliament, that used to protect the previous government from what they apparently perceived as a threat: the people. Could this be the beginning of a new era, one in which, for a change, young people have a future? After all, Syriza’s slogan for the elections was “hope is coming.”

Person removing the iron railings in front of the Greek Parliament, while members of the new government take a group photo in the background. Photo: @dromographos

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Maria Zepatou

Writer, traveller, lost earrings detective

Catch up with me @mrzpt.



youth organizing


January 31, 2015

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