Athens: Greek left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in on Monday as the prime minister of a new hardline, anti-bailout government determined to face down international lenders and end nearly five years of tough economic measures.
The decisive victory by Tsipras` Syriza in Sunday`s snap election reignites fears of new financial troubles in the country that set off the regional crisis in 2009. It is also the first time a member of the 19-nation euro zone will be led by parties rejecting German-backed austerity.
Tsipras` success is likely to empower Europe`s fringe parties, including other anti-austerity movements across the region`s economically-depressed south. The trouncing of the conservatives represents a defeat of Europe`s middle-ground political guard, which has dallied on a growth-versus-budget discipline debate for five years while voters suffered.
Sporting his trademark no-tie look, the 40-year old former student Communist Tsipras became the first prime minister in Greek history to be sworn in without the traditional oath on a Bible and blessing of basil and water from the Greek Archbishop.
At a brief secular ceremony where he pledged to uphold the constitution, Tsipras told President Karolos Papoulias: "We have an uphill road ahead." In a symbolic move, his first action as prime minister was to commemorate Greek resistance fighters with red roses at a memorial in Athens to those executed by Nazis.
Defying predictions that he would turn from populist to pragmatist after taking power, Tsipras quickly sealed a coalition deal with the small Independent Greeks party which also opposes Greece`s EU/IMF aid programme.
Syriza won 149 seats in the 300-seat parliament with its campaign of "Hope is coming!", leaving it just two seats short of an outright majority and in need of a coalition partner. The Independent Greeks, at odds with Syriza on many social issues like illegal immigration, won 13 seats.
The alliance is an unusual one. The parties, at the opposite end of the political spectrum, share only a mutual hatred of the 240-billion-euro bailout programme keeping Greece afloat at the price of budget cuts.
Stavros Theodorakis, leader of To Potami, a new centrist party once seen as a potential Syriza coalition partner, said he could not join a government that included the Independent Greeks, whom he called "far right" and "anti-European". But he said he would wait to see the government`s programme before deciding whether to support a vote of confidence in parliament.
The tie-up suggests Tsipras will keep up his confrontational stance against Greece`s creditors, who have dismissed his demands for a debt write-off and insisted the country needs reforms and austerity to get its finances back on track.
"At first sight this looks like a very strange marriage, but both parties share a strong opposition to austerity," said Diego Iscaro, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.