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article imageRivals vying to lead post-bailout Greece

By Katerina NIKOLOPOULOU, John HADOULIS (AFP)     Jul 3, 2019 in Politics

Greece is holding its first post-bailout general elections on Sunday after a campaign focused on middle-class tax complaints, the Macedonia name deal and security.

Here are profiles of the two main contenders:

- Tsipras: leftist austerity PM -

On the back foot after four nearly unchallenged years in power, Alexis Tsipras is fighting against the odds to survive in the July 7 elections.

Tsipras broke the mould as Greek PM. Just 40 when he assumed power, he was the youngest premier in 150 years, as well as the first self-avowed atheist.

Seen as easy-going and charismatic by supporters, appearing always without a necktie, he bemused his European peers with a crusade against austerity as he launched into a whirlwind six-month negotiation that nearly saw Greece kicked out of the euro.

A political chameleon -- or shameless populist to his critics -- the former Communist then bowed to EU leaders' demands and signed onto a third bailout despite his hardline leftist credentials.

Tsipras is fighting against the odds in July 7 elections
Tsipras is fighting against the odds in July 7 elections
Aris Oikonomou, AFP

But under Tsipras, Greece has consistently posted better-than-expected fiscal results, reducing unemployment and returning to modest growth.

In four years in power, he has tried to soften the austerity blow with health, rent and electricity benefit initiatives for Greece's poorest, funded by piling further taxes on the middle class.

It was this policy that Syriza leaders now admit proved their undoing in European and local elections. The party was roundly defeated by the New Democracy conservatives of Kyriakos Mitsotakis -- sparking Sunday's snap election.

Brokering a deal with his Macedonia counterpart Zoran Zaev to rename Greece's northern neighbour the Republic of North Macedonia in January was another achievement of Tsipras that proved controversial.

The Greek PM and Zaev were nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize -- but it sank Tsipras's coalition government and left Greece's populous north seething.

An engineer by training, 44-year-old Tsipras has two sons with electronics engineer Betty Baziana -- whom he never married, bucking the country's strong conservative traditions.

A lifelong fan of Che Guevara, Tsipras has named his youngest son Orfeas Ernesto after the Argentine revolutionary.

- Mitsotakis: pro-business political scion -

Tipped as the next prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis is a hard-nosed reformer and political dynasty scion with controversial civil service job cuts on his resume.

Mitsotakis has vowed to "steamroll" obstacles to business
Mitsotakis has vowed to "steamroll" obstacles to business
Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD, AFP

Three years after taking over the leadership of the conservative New Democracy party once headed by his father, the 51-year-old Harvard graduate and former McKinsey consultant has pledged to create "better" jobs through growth, foreign investment and tax cuts and to "steamroll" obstacles to business.

In his sole ministerial stint in charge of administrative reform in 2014, he was handed the task of eliminating 15,000 civil service posts under pressure from Greece's creditors.

The downsizing was cut short by elections, but Mitsotakis's tag as a hatchet man has endured.

Fearful of alienating Greek civil servants and their families -- who account for a hefty percentage of the electorate -- Mitsotakis has been forced to publicly abjure further civil service layoffs.

In a country with a long tradition of nepotism, Mitsotakis has vowed not to put any relatives in his cabinet.

But few people in Greece have a pedigree as exclusive as his.

Mitsotakis is a conservative reformer  Tsipras a leftist prime minister during Greece's bailout
Mitsotakis is a conservative reformer, Tsipras a leftist prime minister during Greece's bailout
Gillian HANDYSIDE, AFP

He is the son of former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, one of the country's longest-serving parliamentarians.

His sister is former minister Dora Bakoyannis, Athens' first female mayor. And new Athens mayor Costas Bakoyannis, elected in May, is his nephew.

Since 2016, when he took over as leader of New Democracy, Mitsotakis has consistently fought to distance himself from his status as a member of Greece's leading political dynasty.

Leftist critics say Mitsotakis has turned New Democracy into a "hybrid" of nationalism and extreme neoliberalism in an unholy alliance to keep internal party balances intact.

But Mitsotakis is also credited with restoring the fortunes of a demoralised party that had lost three successive elections to Tsipras in the last five years.

A basketball lover, Mitsotakis has three children with Mareva Grabowski, a co-founder of luxury clothes label Zeus+Dione.

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