Meet the Gay Man Elected to Lead Greece's Leftist Party in Historic First
In a stunning upset, a Greek American businessman was elected to lead the largest opposition party in Greece on Sunday, becoming the first out gay leader of a political party in the country’s history – and now he’s ready to become Greece’s first gay prime minister.
Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, received 56.69 percent of the over 130,000 votes cast in elections to lead the leftist Syriza party, defeating former labor minister and early favorite Efi Achtsioglou, who had positioned herself as the more experienced candidate. Kasselakis replaces Alexis Tsipras, a former prime minister who resigned as head of Syriza following disastrous losses in recent parliamentary elections.
Kasselakis is out and married to Tyler McBeth, a nurse he met while living in the U.S. Kasselakis mentioned McBeth during his acceptance speech to Syriza supporters on Sunday.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for welcoming him and embracing him,” Kasselakis told the crowd.
Marriage equality is not recognized in Greece, and while the pair married in the U.S., their relationship will be considered a civil partnership in Greece. Kasselakis promised to reform the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws if elected.
In July, Kasselakis laid out a potential campaign platform in an opinion piece, adding that he was jumping into Greek national politics as a “brief interlude between two chapters” in his business career. He advocated tax relief for ordinary workers, transparency on the finances of MPs and others, reform of the civil court process, and more.
“Greek society wants solutions and results,” Kasselakis concluded in his opinion piece. “And so do expats in order to return to the country. I am truly hoping Syriza will stand up to become the governing Democrats my homeland desperately needs.”
Experts credit the novice politician’s use of social media as key to his victory over the more established candidate and insider. Farlie, the couple’s Portuguese water dog, became a familiar four-legged social media presence for Kasselakis.
Kasselakis was born in Greece but came to the U.S. to study at the Phillips Academy prep school and eventually graduate from the Wharton Business School. During this period, he spent time working on then-Sen. Joe Biden’s 2008 presidential campaigns. He later worked as a trader with Goldman Sachs before founding his own shipping company Swift Bulk.
While some welcomed the election results as a breath of fresh air for the party, others took a less optimistic view following a contentious election that they say could create deep schisms within the party.
“Kasselakis’s victory highlights a concerning trend of political immaturity within Syriza,” Georgios Samaras, an assistant professor of public policy at Kings College London, told Al Jazeera. “This election has witnessed the elevation of a relatively unknown politician who lacks a clear political agenda or well-defined objectives.”
Check out some images of Kasselakis and his husband below.