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Students and staff respond to results of Greek elections

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | JANUARY 30, 2015 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa rhetoric Associate Professor Takis Poulakos — a native of Greece — views the recent political changes in the recent election as “a glimmer of hope” for Greece.

Poulakos and other Greek natives at the UI look at election results with hope. In the election, Alexis Tsipras became Greece’s new prime minister. Tsipras’ victory also means good news for supporters of Syriza, a left-wing party that has promised to ease the burden of Greece’s debt.

“This new party is not run by one of those families that have been power for so many years,” Poulakos said. 

UI graduate student Litsa Cheimariou is also pleased with Tsipras’ election.

“I think Alexis Tsipras is very capable to change things not only in Greece but also in Europe,” Cheimariou said. “It’s the first time in recent Greek history that a left-wing party gained power. It’s a change and a unique chance.”

Since Greece joined other European nations and adopted the euro as the country’s currency in 2001, it has faced significant debt.

“Greece did benefit from the euro because of a much lower interest rate,” said John Conybeare, a UI professor of political science. “[But then they] acted like a 10-year-old with a credit card and went crazy with spending.”

As a result, Greece was unable to pay all of its debt to other European countries.

Since then, the government has not been able to bail Greece out of the crisis. Instead, the people of Greece have been taxed to pay back the money that was spent.

“The money comes out of people’s paychecks,” Poulakos said. “There are cuts on top of cuts. There are more suicides in Greece right now than in Scandinavian countries. It’s a huge shift from how things used to be. Everyone hopes the new government can renegotiate some of these terrible terms to repay this debt.”

Tsipras has said Greece is insisting on seeking forgiveness for most of the country’s debt. He also hopes to achieve balanced primary budgets, which include debt-servicing costs, the Associated Press has reported.

Conybeare said he believes the new government will first produce negative effects before it can produce positive ones.

“Greece will be forced off the euro, which will cause short-term financial chaos,” he said. “But in the long run, they’ll be better off in their own currency.”

Effie Kapnoula, a UI Ph.D. student who has been in the United States for five years, said Greece’s economic crisis has affected her by forcing her to make sacrifices involving her career.

“My goal was to return back to Greece after I am done,” she said. “I still want to go back; however, due to Greece’s current economic situation, this seems very difficult. To give an example, if the impossible happened and I was offered a lecturer position in a well-respected Greek university, I would still get a smaller salary than what I currently get as a part-time graduate student at the UI.”

Cheimariou, who has been in America for four years to work on a Ph.D., faces similar hardships, because her ultimate goal is to go back to Greece and work there.

“Every time I went back to Greece during the last four years, everyone was depressed, and unhappy, and poor,” she said. “There were no jobs and no hope for anything. It is really hard, being so far away, to see your loved ones suffer and not knowing when you will be able to return.”

Because of the economic suffering, Poulakos said, the people of Greece are numb, and had the previous government been re-elected, Greece would have no hope.

“If things can change for Greece, it means they can change for Europe or even globally,” Cheimariou said “After all, the fight against unreasonable economic policies and injustice is a universal cause.”


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