Unknown in Greece a few weeks ago, Stefanos Kasselakis, former Goldman Sachs trader, created a surprise by being elected Sunday at the head of the left-wing Syriza party after the withdrawal of Alexis Tsipras.
The 35-year-old businessman, who until recently lived in Miami and has never held any electoral mandate in Greece, won against Tsipras' former labor minister, Effie Achtsioglou. It won more than 56% of the votes of Syriza members after an internal campaign that revealed deep divisions within Greece's largest opposition party.
He is the first openly gay politician to head a political party in the country. The young man with the build of an athlete is ostensibly presented with her American husband, an emergency nurse, which is surprising in a Greece where gay marriage does not exist and where some leaders of the Orthodox Church still vilify homosexuals.
Stefanos Kasselakis moved to the United States at the age of 14 and is a newcomer to the political scene. Many Greeks first saw his face less than a month ago when he announced in a simple video, and at the very last minute, that he was running for president of the party.
The dashing thirty-year-old then proved that he perfectly mastered the codes of communication on social networks while benefiting from the fascination he exerts on the Greek media.
Since he caused a surprise by coming out ahead in the first round of voting within Syriza, the television channels have followed him in all his movements: morning coffee, leaving the gym, welcoming his mother at the airport. He took the lead of a party that was crushed in the two successive general elections in May and June, and which was plagued by internal conflicts of such severity that they could, according to some analysts, lead to a split.
In the June parliamentary elections, Syriza won only 17.84% of the vote, more than 20 points less than Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' New Democracy. Stefanos Kasselakis likes to compare himself to the conservative leader who also studied in the United States.
His arrival at the head of Syriza comes after former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (2015-2019), a European figure of the radical left when he came to power in 2015, threw in the towel four days after his bitter defeat in the legislative elections.
Stefanos Kasselakis says he wants to "show another way", he whose career is surprising in this former party of the radical left led for fifteen years by Alexis Tsipras from the communist youth.
Five years at Goldman Sachs
At 21, a graduate of a university in Pennsylvania, Stefanos Kasselakis was hired by the American investment bank Goldman Sachs, specializing in commodities. An experience of 5 years which, he assures, allowed him to "see what capital is: to buy the work of others at a lower cost" and to measure "the arrogance that money brings".
He then went into the merchant navy by creating his own company. This sportsman, who claims to have volunteered in 2008 in the campaign team of Joe Biden, then senator, insists that "the time has come to build the Greek dream that we desperately need".
In particular, he advocates the separation of Church and State, the abolition of compulsory military service and wants to focus on the defence of the environment in a country that is cruelly lagging behind in this area.
But his lightning rise is making many cringe within Syriza. His critics have the verb acid: Stefanos Kasselakis has never been elected, has never held a ministerial office and has no programme. "We don't know Kasselakis. Personally, I do not know his intentions for the party, "commented before the vote a figure of the party, Yannis Ragousis.
Syriza is in any case turning the page Alexis Tsipras who remains the man of the arm wrestling with Greece's creditors when the country was on the verge of leaving the euro zone in 2015.