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Weary Greeks brace for more economic pain after Tsipras win

Weary Greece braced for more painful austerity Monday as Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister with a mandate to drive through unpopular reforms agreed with the nation's international creditors.

[ATHENS] Weary Greece braced for more painful austerity Monday as Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister with a mandate to drive through unpopular reforms agreed with the nation's international creditors.

As a torrential downpour swept Athens, Tsipras took his second oath of office in eight months and got ready to unveil a cabinet which will have to apply tough economic reforms he signed onto in July.

"On my honour and conscience, I pledge to uphold the constitution and laws" of Greece he said.

Earlier he told President Prokopis Pavlopoulos that a coalition government with the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party - his allies in the last cabinet - would be sworn in by Wednesday morning.

On the same day, Tsipras will travel to Brussels for a summit on the refugee crisis, where he will also represent Cyprus. Some 310,000 migrants and refugees have landed on Greek shores from Turkey this year, most of them Syrians fleeing their country's civil war.

France, Germany, Spain and European Council president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday pledged to help crisis-hit Greece, both on the economic front and in dealing with the worsening migrant crisis.

But EU partners wasted no time in reminding Greece to get down to work pushing through reforms laid out in a rescue package worth up to 86 billion euros (S$135 billion).

"Looking forward to swift formation of new government with strong mandate to continue reform process," said Eurogroup president and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.


From buying a loaf of bread to a visit to the doctor, pain lies in store as the new government readies to raise taxes and rewrite the economic rule-book in line with tough reforms demanded by the country's lenders in return for Greece's third international rescue in five years.

"There's a lot of work ahead and no time to lose," said Mr Juncker. "As you know well, you can count on the European Commission and on me personally to stand by Greece and support the new government in its efforts." The economic to-do list was signed in July by Mr Tsipras in a controversial deal that alienated anti-euro hardliners who then quit his Syriza party, stripping the premier of his majority and triggering Sunday's general election.

With all votes counted in the September 20 ballot, Syriza secured 35.46 per cent of the vote, close to an absolute majority of 145 seats in the country's 300-seat parliament.

Coalition partner ANEL is providing another 10 lawmakers.

"Syriza proved too tough to die," Mr Tsipras told a victory rally in Athens on Sunday night.

At 41, he is the country's youngest premier in 150 years and the EU's first radical left leader to hold office.

Mr Tsipras, who had justified the deal he signed in July with European leaders as saving Greece from a chaotic exit from the eurozone, said the election victory would "change the balance" in Europe and strengthen Greece's fight against endemic corruption and hidden wealth.


Syriza's main rivals, the conservative New Democracy Party, came second with 28.10 per cent, while Syriza defectors who had formed a rival anti-austerity party failed to pick up the required three percent of the vote to enter parliament.

In an indication of Greece's weariness with five years of economic crisis and political tumult, nearly 44 per cent of voters sat out the election - the third vote for Greeks this year including a referendum on austerity. The abstention rate during the January election stood at 36 per cent.

Post-victory celebrations also indicated crisis fatigue with only around 500 jubilant Syriza supporters turning out to congratulate Mr Tsipras on a hot Athens night. In January, 8,000 turned out.

"We know people are tired, that tomorrow's measures will be tough, that people have had enough of elections, that this isn't really a night for celebration," a Syriza voter told AFP.

By now a familiar face in the corridors of power in Brussels and other European capitals, Mr Tsipras has pledged to soften the edges of the bailout to help his country's poorest citizens weather the austerity storm.


But the clock is ticking, with a lenders' review due in October to assess whether Athens is abiding by the cash-for-reforms programme. At stake is the release of a new three-billion-euro tranche of aid.

Greece's new parliament, expected to convene on October 1, will have to revise the 2015 budget, taking into account pension and income tax reforms, including taxes on farmers' income that are set to double by 2017.

The government must also finalise a procedure to recapitalise Greek banks by December, before new EU-wide bank rescue regulations that could affect depositors come into play in 2016.

Mr Tsipras must also move quickly to remove capital controls that his previous administration imposed in June to avert a deposit run.

A total of eight parties will be participating in the new parliament, with neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn in third place, followed by the Pasok socialists.


Read more on the Greek crisis here

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