Tsipras in 45 secs

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Tsipras in 45 secs

Homeless man in Athens
Syriza’s headline policy is confronting Greece’s “humanitarian crisis”

Syriza, the left-wing party that stormed to power in Greece with 36% of the vote, has promised to ditch austerity and renegotiate the country’s €240bn (£180bn; $270bn) bailout with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

But what exactly have Greeks signed up to, backing a party that was once a wide-ranging far-left coalition that included Maoists?

Here are five of Syriza’s key aims.

Actions on jobs and wages
Most eye-catching for Greeks is the promise of 300,000 new jobs in the private, public and social sectors, and a hefty increase in the minimum monthly wage – from €580 ($658; £433) to €751 ($853; £562). The new jobs would focus on the young unemployed – almost 50% of under-25s are out of work – and the long-term unemployed, especially those over 55.

Salaries and pensions plummeted in 2012 as Greek ministers tried to curb spending. Now Syriza aims to reverse many of those “injustices”, bringing back the Christmas bonus pension, known as the 13th month, for pensioners receiving less than €700 ($795; £524) a month. Syriza says it will rebuild Greece with what it describes as four pillars:

Confronting the humanitarian crisis
Restarting the economy and promoting tax justice
Regaining employment
Transforming the political system to deepen democracy
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Power to the people
A parish church in Athens provides meals for the homeless (18 Jan)
Church groups will be among those asked to help provide meals to families without income
For Syriza, 300,000 appears to be a magic number. They are promising 300,000 households under the poverty line up to 300 kWh of free electricity per month and food subsidies for the same number of families who have no income.

Tax on heating fuel will be scrapped.

Then there are plans for free medical care for those without jobs and medical insurance.

Syriza argues all its plans have been fully costed at a total of €11.3bn and will be paid for by several initiatives, including a crackdown on tax evasion and smuggling. However, the previous government disputed the figures.

Tsipras faces Greek expectations

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Debt write-off
The headline-grabbing Syriza policy that has shaken the eurozone is a promise to write off most of Greece’s €319bn ($363bn; £239bn) debt, which is a colossal 175% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

But the write-off is only part of it. Syriza also wants:

Repayment of the remaining debt tied to economic growth, not the Greek budget
A “significant moratorium” on debt payments
The purchase of Greek sovereign bonds under the European Central Bank’s €60bn ($68bn; £45bn) monthly programme of quantitative easing
Syriza wants a European Debt Conference modelled on the London Debt Conference of 1953, when half of Germany’s post-World War Two debt was written off, leading to a sharp increase in economic growth. If it happened for Germany, it can happen for Greece, the party argues.

Alexis Tsipras lays wreath (26 Jan)
The Syriza leader laid a wreath in memory of 200 communists executed by the Nazis
For both Syriza and its coalition partner, the centre-right Independent Greeks, the Nazi occupation of their country during World War Two looms large.

Syriza wants Germany to repay a loan that the Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to pay during the occupation. That would work out at an estimated €11bn ($12.5bn; £8.2bn) today. The Independent Greeks also want Germany to pay war reparations.

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Scrapping of property tax
It is not just the poor who voted for Syriza but the middle classes as well. Property owners in Athens’s leafy, northern suburbs were enticed with the promised abolition of a hated annual levy on private property.

Known as “Enfia”, the tax was introduced in 2011 as an emergency measure but made permanent under the previous government.

Instead, there will be a tax on luxury homes and large second properties.

Greeks take a stand against unpopular tax

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Closer relations with Russia
It did not go unnoticed that the first foreign ambassador whom Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras met as prime minister was Russia’s envoy.

Not a great surprise, perhaps, as he was once considered a pro-Moscow communist and visited Russia last May.

Mr Tsipras has strongly criticised EU sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine, and there are signs that the election of a pro-Russian government in Athens could affect policy in Brussels.

In a sign that the new government in Athens could be flexing its muscles, Greece complained on Tuesday that it had not been consulted about a strongly-worded joint statement by EU leaders on the escalating violence in Ukraine and the threat of further sanctions.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin (26 January)
President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to Greece was the first ambassador to meet the new prime minister
Russia is a major commercial partner for Greece, and EU sanctions – as well as Russia’s reverse sanctions on the EU – have hit Greek exporters hard.

But the new government’s foreign policies could be radically different from its predecessors.

Syriza may have dropped earlier aspirations to leave Nato and force the US Navy out of Crete, but Greece’s military co-operation with Israel may well be under threat.

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