Friday, June 15, 2012

The loud-mouthed radical awaits his fate

Financial Times
June 15, 2012

Some Greeks, like Pericles, are born great. Others, like Ioannis Capodistrias, the first head of state of modern Greece, achieve greatness. One day Alexis Tsipras may have greatness thrust upon him – if it falls to the 37-year-old former communist student rebel to attempt Greece’s salvation from the double disaster of a eurozone exit and a national economic meltdown.

With his youthful good looks, open-neck designer shirts and BMW motorcycle, Mr Tsipras appears more like a playboy than a politician grimly awaiting the call of destiny. Greeks who know him say he is, in some respects, an overgrown student politician, but that it is short-sighted to underestimate his ambition and willpower.

“He was a likeable young man,” recalls Thanos Veremis, a retired history professor at Athens university, who met him before the eruption of Greece’s debt crisis in October 2009. “He looked streetwise. He’s no thug. He’s very composed. He never loses his cool. This is a good sign. It shows he’s intelligent.”

Nevertheless Prof Veremis brackets Mr Tsipras with other students of his era who leveraged loud-mouthed radicalism into a political career. “Student politicos like him were out to do well out of politics. Politics was a business for them. Tsipras has made it big time. He’s now the aspiring prime minister of Greece.”


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