Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tsipras

Greek leftist leader Alex Tsipras was sworn in as the country’s new prime minister on Monday, hours after clinching a deal with the right-wing Independent Greeks to form an anti-austerity government.Alexis Tsipras

President Karolous Papoulias administered the oath in a ceremony at the presidential palace in Athens.

“I will always look after the best interests of the country,” Tsipras told Papoulias.

It was a departure from tradition, as the prime minister-designate is usually sworn in by the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. Tsipras is an atheist.

Tsipras, the country’s youngest-ever prime minister, led the SYRIZA party to a landslide victory over the governing conservative party in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, falling only two seats short of an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament. With the Independent Greeks’ 13 seats, the coalition will have a solid majority of 162.

The quick pace with which developments were unfolding in Greece went counter to the expectations of many analysts, who had feared a period of prolonged political uncertainty or even fresh snap elections.

Tsipras and Independent Greeks chairman Panos Kammenos met for about an hour early on Monday at SYRIZA’s headquarters in central Athens. Afterwards, Kammenos stepped out from the office and said: “I want to announce that we have a government.”

The two parties agree on little except for their mutual hostility towards the terms of the Greece’s international bailout, which demanded tough austerity measures in exchange for billions of euros in emergency funding. The Independent Greeks have called the bailout an international conspiracy to exploit Greece.

Voters resoundingly rejected the austerity programme, required by the EU and International Monetary Fund and supported by the New Democracy party of outgoing prime minister Antonis Samaras.

Samaras had urged Greeks to stick to those austerity policies – which include salary cuts, private sector layoffs, privatisations and tax rises – saying Greece’s credibility and future in the eurozone was on the line.

Tsipras’ promises that he could renegotiate the bailout and receive a write down on debt from creditors won over Greeks, despite few signs from eurozone leaders that they would be willing to entertain a compromise.

GNA

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