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Montevideo, November 17th 2018 - 22:24 UTC

Tsipras takes office with a daunting agenda; 45% abstained on Sunday

Wednesday, September 23rd 2015 - 08:43 UTC
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Voters gave Tsipras and Syriza the benefit of the doubt over a dramatic summer U-turn, when he ditched his anti-austerity platform to secure a new bailout Voters gave Tsipras and Syriza the benefit of the doubt over a dramatic summer U-turn, when he ditched his anti-austerity platform to secure a new bailout

Alexis Tsipras took the oath of office for a second term as Greek prime minister, promising to revive the crippled economy while demanding debt relief from creditors as his “first big battle” following an unexpectedly clear election victory.

 The firebrand leftist solidified his position as Greece's dominant political figure in Sunday's election, but faces a dauntingly long “to do” list that includes implementing austerity policies and dealing with migrants landing on Greek shores. However abstention last Sunday was 45%.

Voters gave Tsipras and his Syriza party the benefit of the doubt over a dramatic summer U-turn, when he ditched his anti-austerity platform to secure a new bailout and avert 'Grexit', a Greek exit from the euro zone.

His first comments upon taking the oath of office were not about his country's economic woes but about Europe's migration crisis, the worst on the continent since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Greece has been the main point of entry for tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on its shores by sea and mostly continue onwards over land across the Balkan peninsula to richer EU countries further north.

Syriza won just over 35%, slightly down on its previous result and still short of an overall majority. But it will renew its coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks. Opposition New Democracy gained 28%. Far-right Golden Dawn came in third with 7%, slightly up on January's poll.

The Greek electoral system means the party with the largest number of votes wins a bonus of 50 seats - and Syriza will have 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament, only four fewer than in Mr. Tsipras's January victory.

The Independent Greeks party, which is anti-austerity but agrees with Syriza on little else, won 10 seats. New Democracy won 75, Golden Dawn 18.

However Sunday's general elections had the highest rate of abstention, with about 45% of voters choosing to abstain from the process. Nearly 55% of voters participated in the September elections, compared to 63.62% which participated in the January 2015 election. In the double elections of 2012 65.12% voted in May and 62.49% in June.

The abstention rate was 25.13% in the 2000 elections, 23.5% in the 2004 elections and after 2007 there have been minor fluctuations: In 2009 the abstention rate was 29.05%, in May 2012 it was 34.88%, in June 2012 it was 37.51% and in January 2015 it was 36.38%.

Tsipras homework in the first 100 days: Cut wage and pension costs again, but less than in previous five years (2% increase in workers' pension contributions, 2% increase in pensioners' national insurance contributions); Reform early retirement: Decide which categories will qualify for it (and revamp whole pension system before January); Recapitalize banks and set timetable for lifting capital controls; Hold more talks on debt repayments with EU-IMF lenders, with goal of debt relief deal in January; Adopt more tax reforms: farmers to see income tax double and fuel subsidy scrapped; new penalties for tax evasion (VAT increase was passed in July; corporation tax was raised by 3%, to 29%); Privatize more than half of state electricity network (regional airports and much of road network already privatized); Liberalize closed professions, eg removing taxi drivers' fixed tariffs; Reinstate charges in state health service originally scrapped by Syriza (eg €5 charge for visit to doctor).

Categories: Politics, International.

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