In January of 2019, journalist Yiannis Baboulias published an article titled: Alexis Tsipras Is Smarter Than You Think. The crux of his argument being that “Greece’s prime minister has transformed from leftist firebrand to international statesman—and gotten more powerful at home in the process.” Tsipras, Baboulias argues, managed to transform himself into an “international statesman” by resolving conflicts between Greece and Macedonia. This legitimizes Tsipras while settling conflict so that Macedonia is able to join NATO and the European Union. This resolution has even garnered Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Does resolution of a conflict that was years overdue warrant a Novel Peace Prize nomination? Moreover, does Tsipras deserve to see his presidency legitimized to such an extent?
The Greeks themselves would vehemently disagree—with elections looming on the horizon in May, Tsipras is unpopular as ever. Eurasia group predicts that Syriza’s opposition party, New Democracy will win the elections by a majority vote. The “firestarter” populist figure has been replaced by a soulless politician no better than his predecessors. The promises of going to Germany and making Angela Merkel cut Greece a deal of the century in order to raise them out of the depths of economic hell fell short. Tsipras turning his back on the Greeks and signing more austerity measures betrayed their trust and threw them into the arms of conservative opposition groups like New Democracy and Golden Dawn. To assert that Tsipras is a bold, genius statesman is an outcry—when he signed the third set of memorandum measures in 2015, he and the troika violated parliamentary procedures that are implemented to protect the Greek populace. His decision to implement this “payment schedule” further indebted the already underpaid and unemployed youth of Greece. His divisive reelection strategy to quell the fiery conflict that was “Macedonia is Greece” in order to regain favor of his younger demographic of voters backfired on him. It is important to note that yes, this was the logical and strategic move to make from a Westerner’s perspective, but, from a Greek perspective it is a direct attack on the πατριδα. Instead of ebbing the ever-present nationalist tension in the country, it only increased it to the point of social pushback. Rallies have been held all over Greece in outrage over Tsipras and the Greek Parliament’s decision to allow Macedonia to change their name. Many Greeks believe that changing Macedonia’s official title to “Northern Republic of Macedonia” completely erases the historical footprint of Greece—Macedonia, Home of Alexander the Great, gets to change its name because a spineless Greek Prime Minister wants so desperately to be reelected.
That is not to say that there is any physical evidence that Macedonia is such as part of Greece, the Greeks desperately cling to their history and nationalist ideals because that is the only thing they feel hopeful about. Though Tsipras has implemented the most austerity measures since the 2010 economic collapse, and has held government officials accountable for not paying their taxes, the Greeks do not see any other tangible results from him. Youth unemployment remains at an all time high. The best and the brightest setting sights for economically promising countries like Germany, Switzerland, or the United States. The rest are looking to groups like Golden Dawn to provide them with the structure they need to fiscally strengthen the country in order to possibly have a future that does not involve them emigrating elsewhere.
How can Baboulias claim Tsipras is a brazen political genius when he has failed not only his people, but the Syrian migrants who live in fear for their lives diurnally? Or, how pitifully he handled the Wildfires of Summer 2018? The latter of which he failed in allocating resources for—some would even parallel it to Trump’s failure to allocate resources for the victims of Hurricane Maria. Children were missing from their families for days, and the government did little to nothing in trying to aid them in locating them. Greek television personalities and singers did more for Wildfire relief aid than Tsipras and Syrizia did. As for the migrant crisis, the EU claims the worst of it is over, with Tsipras backing those claims. Greek journalists all over Twitter beg to differ—journalist Marianna Karakoulaki chronicles the migrant crisis in Greece on Twitter. An overarching theme throughout her tweets is a lack of coherent ideas from Tsipras on how to help migrants. There are little to no protective measures taken to ensure even their basic human rights are met. There has been no government action take to curb the alarming kidnapping rate that is taking place on the island locations with high migrant populations. As this article was being penned, two bodies were found on the shore of Lesvos—one of which was the headless body of a nine year old girl who was missing for an entire month. Little to no measures were taken by the government to ensure if she was even alive.
Which circles us back to the initial question posed—is Alexis Tsipras truly genius statesman with lofty political ideals for his country? Or is he nothing but a hated populist leader that once had Greece in the palm of his hand with his promises to tear down preexisting political standards and restore power to the people of Greece? Sure, what he did with Macedonia was refreshing and cooperative on his part, but everything he has failed to do for Greece echoes louder than any of his accomplishments.