ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Just a few days after being elected the new leader of Greece's left-wing main opposition party, Stefanos Kasselakis said Thursday that he will be taking a brief break from politics — to join the military.
Kasselakis, 35, said he plans to present himself “soon” for military service, which is obligatory for all Greek men.
“It will be an honor to" do military service, he said in an interview with Star television. “I'm very happy. I'll go soon, once the party bodies convene and things are set in order.”
The Syriza party leader, elected Sunday, had been exempt from military service until now because he lived in the United States since age 14. Back in Greece, he now must spend six months in the military, with the option of actually serving for three weeks and buying off the rest of his time.
Kasselakis, a businessman without prior political experience who is openly gay, was the surprise winner of Sunday's party election. He replaced former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who resigned after Syriza''s heavy loss in June's parliamentary elections.
His meteoric rise to Syriza's leadership has upset many left-wing traditionalists in the party who view him as an interloper. Further complicating his role as leader of Greece’s biggest opposition party, Kasselakis is not a member of parliament.
While it has a sizeable number of professional troops, Greece's military is still conscription-based, with service in most cases set at 12 months. It's unclear when Kasselakis will start his service, but Greek law gives him leeway until the beginning of 2024.
He said Thursday he would like to serve in a unit near the land border with Turkey — Greece's historic regional rival — or on one of the eastern Aegean Sea islands.