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Stefanos Kasselakis: The Rising Star of the Greek Left

Stefanos Kasselakis smiling during his campaign. Credit: AMNA
Stefanos Kasselakis smiling during his campaign. Credit: AMNA

Stefanos Kasselakis is the rising star of the Greek Left after winning the first round of the SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance election for party leadership on Sunday.

The leftist party newcomer received 45.47 percent of the votes (51,615 votes total) with 90.13 percent of the total votes counted. He left former Finance Minister Effie Achtsioglou second with 36.21 percentage points (41,098 votes).

Stefanos Kasselakis and Effie Achtsioglou will battle it out in a second round on Sunday, September 24th for the final vote that will determine who will lead the main opposition party.

The chairman of SYRIZA-PA Central Electoral Committee, Yiannis Drosos, announced the results of 484 out of a total of 537 polling centers late on Sunday.

The remaining three runners for the party presidency fared as follows:

Nikos Pappas received 8.64 percent and 9,804 votes.
Stefanos Tzoumakas received 1.28 percent and 1,457 votes.
Euclid Tsakalotos received 8.4 percent and 9,533 votes.

Drosos thanked and congratulated the five candidates and the 146,635 SYRIZA-PA  who participated in the election that included 1,211 votes cast by Greeks abroad from more than twenty countries.

The electoral committee chairman called the people who voted “the voice of a society where the dismantling of every public institution, welfare and public services has generated problems for many, if not all Greeks.”

Who is Stefanos Kasselakis?

Stefanos Kasselakis, who resides in Miami, landed in the public political scene as if out of nowhere at the end of August, when he declared his candidacy for the SYRIZA-PA presidency.

The leftist party leadership candidate was born in Maroussi, a northern suburb of Athens, in 1988. Since 2015, he has been active in the shipping business, according to the official party website.

After winning the silver medal in the “Archimedes” competition of the Hellenic Mathematical Society, Kasselakis represented Greece in the Youth Balkan Mathematics Olympiad and, thanks to the distinction, received a full scholarship from Phillips Academy, a university-preparatory high school in Andover, Massachusetts, where his family immigrated when he was fourteen.

Once in the US, the young Greek attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Program on an Andreas Dracopoulos scholarship and received two degrees: Bachelor of Science in Finance from the Wharton School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Alongside his studies, Kasselakis volunteered on the staff of Senator Joe Biden for the 2008 presidential election. He also worked at the foreign policy think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.

For a number of years, he was a contributor for The National Herald, initially writing for the student column and finance later on. In 2009, he was hired by Goldman Sachs in London and later in New York as a junior analyst but was fired in 2015.

During the economic crisis in Greece, he founded the non-profit online platform ‘CVfromGreece,’ through which he helped young people improve their CVs for applications for work or study abroad.

Fire From the Traditional Left

“A first step was taken for the country to have a progressive government soon,” Kasselakis stated after Sunday’s results.

Yet the traditional leftists in Greece doubt that the newcomer in Greek politics is a true leftist.

Since late August, Kasselakis ran a massive social media campaign, making his name known to the general public.

Most of his campaign did not include messages that would appeal to traditional leftists. Rather, his messages were said to attract even conservative voters.

At the same time, Kasselakis shot a video on Makronissos, a deserted island that was used as a prison for communists and other leftist guerilla fighters who were arrested after the end of the Greek Civil War.

The video was criticized by both conservatives and leftists as pretentious, especially for using former Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis of the SRYIZA administration. Apostolakis appeared dressed as a worker.

The video caused a stir within SYRIZA ranks and was criticized for potentially capitalizing on a sensitive issue for the Greek Left.

Skeptics from both ends of the political spectrum believe that a potential Kasselakis win may lead to a SYRIZA split and put an end to the party’s possibilities of governing Greece again.

His critics believe that since he is not a Greek Parliament member, he would not be able to lead the fight against New Democracy as a main opposition leader.


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