Will the real Greek Dems please stand up?

Will the real Greek Dems please stand up?

Three months ago, I made the decision to actively engage with the Greek national elections as a brief interlude between two chapters in my business career. An expat who transferred to boarding school in Massachusetts, I have now lived outside Greece for 60% of my life. Thankfully, given the nature of my business in shipping over the past six years, I have been able to reconnect with Greece on a more “regular course of business” basis and have been able to shape my own views on the changes the country needs.

In April, I became a candidate for Parliament on the SYRIZA party’s state ballot, in an honorary spot representing expats. This was not a no-brainer decision: From 2012 on, I had developed an excellent rapport with Kyriakos Mitsotakis while he was an MP, then a cabinet minister, and finally the head of the New Democracy party. In fact, I penned an endorsement for him in the National Herald while he was competing for the party leadership. I had – and still have – a lot of respect for him personally.

I now find myself in a vacuum: not because I no longer have an official political role – I have repeatedly and publicly said I never desired one post-election – but because I cannot discern governing democrats on the horizon

Over the past two years, I also came to meet the SYRIZA leadership team and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras. He took the time to understand my story and values, and he invited me to join SYRIZA’s state ballot without any quid pro quo. “We need people like you here.”

I joined SYRIZA because I believed that with Tsipras we could craft the equivalent Democratic Party of Greece, one that could implement a blend of policy changes ranging from bipartisan bills on the economy and justice reform to progressive protections on human rights, housing, poverty etc. I spent significant time with Tsipras in June campaigning around the country, and I have absolutely no regrets for dedicating my time, energy, and personal funds to supporting our “Democratic” cause.

Tsipras has since stepped down. Thus, I now find myself in a vacuum: not because I no longer have an official political role – I have repeatedly and publicly said I never desired one post-election – but because I cannot discern governing democrats on the horizon. Democrats that, just like in the US, offer a big tent and an experienced roster to manage the bureaucracy.

Real introspection is of course needed within the party, but if the intention is to govern again, SYRIZA should just copy the US formula as soon as possible. Unequivocally embrace the political center as well; make clear that prudent fiscal management is non-negotiable; and showcase the management talent of its prospective cabinet.

Here are only a few policy priorities the Greek Democrats should put on the forefront:

• Income tax relief on private and public sector employees;

• Significant tax incentives for companies creating stock option pools for employees and for companies relocating outside the Athens region;

• Drastic justice system reforms: mandating a three-year decision deadline for commercial disputes, allowing for remote lawyer representation, requiring all cases of public funds embezzlement to be heard in a court of first instance within three years, all while fully staffing administration support;

• Separating the Supreme Court leadership from parliamentary appointment or otherwise establishing a much greater super-majority threshold;

• Mandating full disclosure on all MP and cabinet member loans: not just the face value amount, but all terms, refinancings etc;

• Terminating the system of hospital management political appointees and replacing it with a dual management system between staff-elected leadership and external hospital administration experts;

• Creating real-time transparency on government bids instead of simple disclosure post-decision and allowing for timely citizen feedback on the “fine print”;

• Allowing for public citizen feedback on any bill so that loopholes can be raised and prevented;

• Immediately resolving the housing and family planning challenges that military families are facing;

• Completely reimagining the nine months of mandatory military service to make it a much more meaningful and useful experience for youngsters, boys and girls alike, and creating a pathway for expats to be involved;

• Allowing for mail-in ballots so that people can vote from wherever they live or work (and please let’s finally use scanners to count the votes);

• Legalizing same-sex marriage, implementing diversity training across the public sector, allowing single women to receive funding for fertility and IVF treatment, granting citizenship to all migrant kids that have been born and raised in Greece, and tackling recidivism with generous reintegration plans; 

• Drastically accelerating university lab equipment procurement processes for R&D, and expelling anyone who damages university/taxpayer property (let us implement all that first over five years before entertaining any discussion on supposedly regulated private universities);

• Providing free housing for all teachers serving in remote locations;

• Decentralizing electricity purchasing so local communities can be rewarded for independent renewables production.

Where SYRIZA should implement its leftist legacy is within… itself! All committees to be elected by its members; all members in a locality to be directly electing and thus deciding their own election ballots (instead of those being handed down by a handful of people in Athens); all local member groups to provide feedback on policy proposals and bills before the party HQ publicizes the formal position. In other words, SYRIZA should lead by example by adopting real, direct democracy itself.

Greek society wants solutions and results, and so do expats in order to return to the country. I am truly hoping SYRIZA will stand up to become the governing Democrats my homeland desperately needs.

Stefanos Kasselakis is a US-based shipping executive. He was an expatriate candidate for Parliament on SYRIZA’s state ballot in the 2023 national elections.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.