In the race for leadership of Greece’s leftist Syriza party, a former minister and a political newcomer are vying for the top spot, with the party hoping for a resurgence after a significant setback in the recent national election.
Syriza’s ascent to power occurred amidst Greece’s debt crisis in 2015, only to be dethroned by the conservative New Democracy party in 2019 and again in June 2023.
Sunday’s decisive vote will see Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, a former Goldman Sachs associate and shipping entrepreneur, face off against Effie Achtsioglou, 38, a lawyer and former labor minister.
Kasselakis, who spent over two decades in the United States and once volunteered in the 2008 U.S. Democratic primaries, emerged as the front-runner in the first round of voting on September 16.
The victor will replace Alexis Tsipras, a fiery leftist who rallied voters to Syriza during the debt crisis but eventually had to accept a third international bailout and increased austerity, leading to his resignation in June after Syriza’s vote share dwindled to 18%.
Kasselakis, a non-lawmaker, unexpectedly launched his leadership bid in August.
His slick social media campaign, promising to break New Democracy’s hold on power, triumphed over five other candidates, earning him 45% of the vote from 147,000 party members on September 16.
However, his candidacy divided Syriza supporters, with many questioning his fit within the traditional Left, while his initial victory sent shockwaves through his political opponents.
Achtsioglou, who played a pivotal role in negotiating labor issues with Greece’s foreign lenders from 2016 to 2019, believes her plan, experience, and parliamentary presence can guide Syriza back to victory.
She declared her candidacy in July and garnered 36% of the vote last week, surpassing former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Nikos Pappas, once Tsipras’ closest aide, who now supports Kasselakis.
Kasselakis, married to nurse Tyler Macbeth since 2019, has emphasized his readiness to lead as a capable, incorruptible, unscathed, and openly gay prime minister, asserting that the Greek people are ready for such leadership.
Should Kasselakis emerge victorious on Sunday, he will likely need to appoint a lawmaker to lead Syriza’s parliamentary group.
Polling stations will close at 1700 GMT, determining the future direction of Greece’s main opposition party.