It took just a little over eight years for Greece’s left-wing Syriza party to come down off the political equivalent of Mount Olympus and possibly slide into Tartarus, the dark deep underworld abyss of ancient Greek myth.

MPs and cadres belonging to a harder left faction within Syriza known as the “Umbrella” essentially quit the party this month. Another faction known as “6+6” may also split away, while “old guard” leftists within the party never miss an opportunity to express their thinly-veiled contempt for new party leader Stefanos Kasselakis, whose election last September sparked the divisiveness and vindictiveness.

And yet, back in January 2015, a swaggering Syriza led by a youthful and radical Alexis Tsipras picked up enough of the vote (36.34 percent) to come very close to an outright majority in Parliament. It immediately tacked on elected MPs from an anti-bailout right-wing populist party to form a coalition government that ended decades of dominance by socialist Pasok and center-right New Democracy (ND).

Months of shambolic negotiations with Greece’s creditors followed. A referendum asking Greek voters if they agreed with the “final offer” from the nation’s creditors – the loathed “Troika” – came in July 2015 in the form of a convoluted question, which met with a resounding “No”. A subsequent “Yes” from Tsipras, most of his Cabinet and much of the Opposition in Parliament was followed by another snap election in September 2015, Syriza’s last election victory, and then four years in government.

Fast forward to September 2023 and a distinctly more placid Tsipras with little of the political charisma that marked his ascent is no longer head of the leftist party. Having shed much of its radical patina, SYRIZA finished a distant second to center-right ND in two successive ballots in May and June 2023, more or less ensuring Tsipras’ exit.

The Left’s new and disruptive ‘fair-haired boy’

Enter Stefanos Kasselakis, a 35-year-old newcomer to Greece’s entrenched political scene who has been described as all manner of things in the two months since he appeared out of nowhere to snatch victory in Syriza’s presidential ballot in September. The epithets include ‘Ivy League-educated’, ‘former Goldman Sachs trader’, ‘shipping entrepreneur’, ‘capitalist’, movie-star-handsome’, ‘fit’, ‘social-media-savvy’, ‘plain-taking’, ‘charismatic’, ‘Biden-supporting’, ‘neophyte’, ‘arriviste’, ‘openly gay’, ‘Trump-like’ and ‘alt-right’.

“…You look at the bench today, after Tsipras lost and left, and what do you see? In all honesty, nothing,” well-known Greek columnist Yannis Pretenteris wrote in Ta Nea last week, adding:

“Not only on the ‘bench’ of politics, but also in society, among the intelligentsia, in academia and journalism: an absolute void… which proved to be Kasselakis’ opportunity. He grabbed it, possibly ignoring the fact that he’s a part of it.”