We Went to Former Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras’ Rally in Athens

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We Went to Former Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras’ Rally in Athens

The rally, held in historic Syntagma Square, was literally painted red with SYRIZA flags and shirts, albeit not as many as January's final rally or the 'No' rally prior to July's referendum.
September 19, 2015, 4:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

On Sunday, Greeks will head to the polls for the third time in only eight months. The election comes in light of the resignation of Greece's youngest ever Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.

In January, Tsipras's leftist political party SYRIZA came to power with a staunch anti-bailout message opposing austerity measures proposed by Greece's creditors. "We will rip up the memorandum," former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras once told adoring crowds. However, in July, despite an overwhelming vote against new economic bailout measures, he and his party signed a new memorandum–one that many claim to be the toughest to date. Not long after, Tsipras decided to resign, paving way for the latest general election.

On Friday night, Alexis Tsipras held a pre-election rally in response to one organised by his opposition, Vangelis Meimarakis of the conservative New Democracy–which took place only 24 hours earlier a few meters away in Athens' Omonia Square.

The rally, held in historic Syntagma Square, was literally painted red with SYRIZA flags and shirts, albeit not as many as January's final rally or the 'No' rally prior to July's referendum. Many viewed that vote as a choice between staying in or leaving the Eurozone. When Alexis Tsipras signed up for a third referendum, a lot of those who had voted 'No' felt betrayed.

At Friday night's rally, a gaggle of like-minded chums from other countries—Gregor Gysi (President of the German leftist party Die Linke), the Ska Keller (vice president of the European Green Party), Pierre Laurent (President of the French Communist Party) and leader of Spain's Podemos, Pablo Iglesias—took to the stage before Tspiras. Iglesias said that, on Sunday, the Greek people must choose between a lion (Alexis Tsipras) and a rabbit.

"Hasta la victoria siempre," he said as he opened the stage for the night's star attraction Alexis Tsipras.

Tsipras got straight to the point. "On Sunday, the Greek people have to choose between the progress of SYRIZA and the conservatism of Vangelis Meimarakis and Angela Merkel," he said, "They have to choose between the harsh austerity of Mr. Schaeuble and the social solidarity SYRIZA."

In general he stuck to smaller themes, talking about change in Europe, leading the party, and passing the torch of the left to other countries, such as Portugal and Spain. Tsipras also spoke of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed by extreme right wing party Golden Dawn supporters in 2013. He criticized Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos's recent statement admitting that the organisation accepted political but not legal responsibility for the murder.

He also spoke about the deeply unpopular and harsh third memorandum that Greece signed with its creditors–or the "agreement" as he called it. "We reached an agreement. A difficult one, but it ensured the financing of our economy," he said.

He appealed to SYRIZA supporters to help him continue the struggle and complete the program with a government firmly in place for a complete four year term.

His final attack was against Vangelis Meimarakis, who he said preferred debating with friends and relatives rather than in the public squares of Athens. The only thing the two prospective Prime Ministers seem to have in common is the phrase "Greece moving forward"–which both political leaders used in their respective speeches.

Tsipras's closing words went out to the country's young men and women, who he urged to vote with both heart and mind. He begged the youth not to abstain from voting, as abstinence would only give the green light to the old status quo.

As Bella Ciao pumped out of the loudspeakers, his four leftist comrades (Gregor Gysi, Ska Geller, Pierre Laurent, and Pablo Iglesias) bid farewell to the crowds, leaving the stage like pop stars before they walked down Ermou Street, where cars and colleagues were waiting for them.

Scroll down for more pictures.