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Greek election gamble pays off for Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece’s prime minister a month after he had resigned as the country’s leader. His leftist Syriza party won enough parliamentary seats in a snap election to form a coalition government. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant gets reaction in crisis-weary Greece.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    But, first, Greece's former prime minister returned to power this evening after his snap election gamble paid off.

    But as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens, many in the cash-strapped country are more resigned than enthusiastic.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The scale of Alexis Tsipras' victory came as a surprise. Before the election, opinion polls had suggested a much tighter race between the conservative New Democracy opposition and Tsipras' left-wing Syriza Party.

    In the end, he had a clear lead over New Democracy. And although he didn't win an outright majority, he secured enough parliamentary seats to form a coalition government with his previous partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, ANEL.

  • ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Syriza Leader (through interpreter):

    We fought a tough and difficult battle. I feel vindicated today, because the Greek people gave us a clear mandate to continue fighting inside and outside the country and boost our people's pride.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    A breakaway faction of his Syriza Party that opposed the latest bailout deal was wiped out in the election, and so his authority has been reasserted.

    Reaction was muted. Normally, after a Greek election, the streets are full of people celebrating. But the country is weary after five years of never-ending crisis. Despite his policy flip-flops, some Syriza supporters still regard Tsipras as the golden boy of the left.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    I am very happy. I live for my children and grandchildren. Tsipras is our hope. He is all we can hope for. Otherwise, we are lost.

  • WOMAN (through interpreter):

    This is the third time that I am voting for Syriza and Alexis Tsipras. I am very proud, and I feel very happy.

  • MAN:

    I am not happy, but I was expecting it. I believed that the Greeks would vote for New Democracy. But, unfortunately for me, and I think for my country, they kept on giving their support to Syriza.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The most significant figure in this election was the 44 percent of people who decided not to vote. The low turnout was the worst in Greek electoral history and an indication that people are disillusioned with politics and politicians.

    Alexis Tsipras only succeeded because he convinced his core supporters to go out and vote. His opponents didn't. The sense of hope that Tsipras engendered earlier in the year has now vanished. People are bracing themselves for still more austerity. And the latest tax bills are due to arrive in the mail any day.

    International investors are tapping into the expertise of political analyst Nick Malkoutzis to determine whether Greece is worth the risk, now that Tsipras has the potential to be prime minister for the next four years. Today, in Athens, the skies roared with thunder. The big question on everyone's lips is, after Tsipras' first stormy term, will there now be calm?

  • NICK MALKOUTZIS, Deputy Editor, Kathimerini:

    Everyone is asking the question really, is he going to deliver, because he's been such of an enigma over the past few months? I think that the two things you can point to that would perhaps make you think he can is that he's emerged from these elections politically strengthened. It's clear certainly to Greece's lenders that he's the only player in town.

    And the second is that he returns with the same government, so there isn't a question of people getting used to their portfolios and learning what they have to do.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Philip Ammerman, a Greek American financial adviser, is working with conglomerates that want to purchase some of Greece's nationalized assets that are being privatized as part of the restructuring program. He has grave doubts about Tsipras ability to force through unpopular austerity.

  • PHILIP AMMERMAN, Financial Adviser:

    He has a mandate but he only has a majority of five votes in the Greek Parliament. And, previously, the Syriza Party, if you will recall, a month ago, a month-and-a-half ago, fell apart precisely because of implementing the Troika's program.

    Now they have voted it. They have voted for the third rescue package, but they have not voted through the implementing arrangements. So the proof of the pudding is going to be, how many Syriza and ANEL M.P.s stay with the governing coalition when it comes time to implement these structural adjustment programs that have to be done. I think it's going to be very difficult for him to last beyond 12 months, personally.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    But Tsipras' first main task has nothing to do with the economy.

    An emergency E.U. summit on the refugee crisis requires his participation later this week. Hard-line nations will want to know whether Tsipras will tear down the fence on the Turkish border which is forcing people to take the perilous sea route via the Greek islands.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

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