ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s youngest political leader, Alexis Tsipras, is seeking a united left front that will call time on the harsh austerity that comes with an international bailout keeping Athens afloat.
He calls the ultimatum thrown down by mainstream parties, bailout or bust, a scare tactic to force people to accept painful cuts in pay and pensions.
The leader of the Left Coalition, one of four parties vying for third place, Tsipras, 38, is appealing to the KKE communists, the Democratic Left and others to team up at May 6 elections to vote out policies driving Greeks into poverty.
“We want to form a government that will lead the way out of this destructive austerity and deep recession, the policies that face a dead end,” he told Reuters before a speech to voters in Volos, a port city in central Greece.
With his party likely to get 9 to 13 percent of the vote based on recent polls, Tsipras has gone as far as to offer the office of prime minister to the head of the KKE. So far, his appeal has had no takers.
A cool, mild mannered politician who shuns neck ties and likes to get around on his motorcycle, Tsipras can be a fiery orator in parliament, railing against austerity.
Often blamed by the socialists for inciting violent protests, he has promised to freeze payments to creditors and renegotiate measures included in Greece’s latest rescue package.
Born four days after the fall of Greece’s military dictatorship in July 1974, Tsipras became leader of the Left Coalition in 2008 and was elected to parliament in 2009. He first emerged on the political scene in 2006 when he scored third place in the Athens mayoral race.
People who know him well say he is a perfectionist.
“He is thorough and scholastic on projects he undertakes, which sometimes can drive colleagues up the wall. It may have to something to do with his civil engineering background,” said a staffer who did not want to be named.
Polls show Greeks wanting to punish the two big parties in this vote but also desiring to stay in the euro. Tsipras says this is not a contradiction.
“He is hitting a nerve with people who have seen their lives turned upside down by the austerity tsunami, the jobless young, pensioners. He is winning the disappointed supporters of the socialist party,” said a banker who did not want to be named.
A soccer fan who supports Athens-based Panathinaikos, Tsipras and his partner, high school sweetheart Betty, expect their second son in July.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos, editing by Mike Peacock