A former Goldman Sachs associate who said that working for the bank showed him the evils of capitalism has become the new leader of Syriza, Greece’s Left-wing opposition party.
Stefanos Kasselakis, a 35-year-old businessman who has lived for more than two decades in the United States after leaving Greece as a teenager, secured 56 per cent of the vote on Sunday, coming from nowhere to clinch the leadership of the party, skilfully using social media.
In August this year, he released a four-minute Instagram video recounting his life story and political philosophy. It went viral, making him a contender for the party leadership, but before that he had been regarded as a nobody on the Greek political scene.
He said that his experience working at Goldman Sachs had shown him some of the iniquities of the capitalist system and that he came to realise that capital was “buying cheaply other people’s labour”.
In a Facebook post earlier this month, he wrote: “If I hadn’t known capitalism from inside, if I hadn’t seen the injustice of money, I may not have been a Leftist.”
His smooth image, American connections and financial acumen – after working at Goldman Sachs, he founded a shipping company and made his fortune – put him at odds with some members of the hard-Left party that he now leads, who view him with suspicion. Syriza has strong communist and anti-capitalist roots.
One Syriza politician, Stelios Kouloglou, said that the election of Mr Kasselakis marked “the end of Left-wing Syriza as we know it”.
Mr Kasselakis’s political experience is limited to once working in the United States as a volunteer for Joe Biden, who was a senator at the time, in the 2008 Democratic primaries.
A leadership contest had to be called after Alexis Tsipras, the previous head of Syriza and a former prime minister, stepped down following the party’s woeful performance in Greece’s general election in June this year.
The election was won by the conservative New Democracy party, which is led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister.
Syriza was propelled into power in 2015 at the height of the Greek economic crisis but was defeated by New Democracy in 2019.
Mr Kasselakis is the first gay leader of Syriza, the main opposition party. He is married to Tyler McBeth, an American nurse.
Although his election shocked many of the party’s grassroots stalwarts, he said that he believes “Greek people are ready to have a prime minister who is capable, incorruptible, unscathed and happens to be gay”.
He defeated Effie Achtsioglou, a 38-year-old MP and former minister who had been the clear favourite in the race, in a run-off contest. Three other candidates were eliminated in an earlier first round.
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