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Syriza – A New Political Force In Greece

  • July 7th, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

syriza.jpgThe Greek people sent a clear message to their politicians at the voting booths – it was out with the old and in with the new.

A key new element is the opposition group, called Syriza, as Patrick Wright reports.

It was “making room on the left.”

PASOK, the democratic socialist party of former Prime Minister George Papandreou, who approved the unpopular loans assistance packages with the European Union, was decimated; making way for a new force on the left of Greek politics, Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left.

An alliance of ten minor left-aligned parties with different political and ideological views, Syriza had never won more than 5% of the popular vote before this year.

Previously such a minor player, Syriza, since the elections of 17.6.12, finds itself the major force in opposition, after coming second at the polls, gaining 71 of the 300 parliamentary seats on offer.

The party’s appeal lies in its promise to reject the EU and International Monetary Fund “bailout” memorandum that imposes austerity  on Greece in return for assistance in servicing huge government debts.

The new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party, centre-right, has instead vowed to seek a renegotiation of the terms of the package, though it has already had some set-backs with that.

EU heads of government at their last summit in Brussels, 27-28.6.12, were at best luke-warm about considering concessions; and the IMF said outright it was not going into negotiations, just sending in its officials to keep on checking the books, to ensure the deal was being honoured.

pat-2-syriza-christine-pirovokalis.jpgChristine Pirovokalis (picture), a journalist working in Athens working for German media, DPA and DWE, and newspapers including ther Wall Street Journal, says popular support for Syriza is likely to grow.

“Come September, when the austerity measures really come into force, we expect to see Syriza to have gained much more popularity.

“This will be indicative of the amount of people in the streets demonstrating – which will increase in September”, she told EUAustralia Online.

Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipiras is young and charismatic, but Ms Pirovokalis says his policies, an attempt to balance staying with the Euro but walking out on the credit package, are seen as unrealistic.

“Greece cannot cut its deficit and implement austerity, and at the same time stay in the Euro. One has to take the place of the other.”

Whether Greece will manage to struggle out the hole it currently finds itself in, the political dynamics in Athens have changed.

“You are seeing a movement,” says Christine Pirovokalis.

“Before, lot of the Greek population were supporting the mainstream parties – the socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy party – that were in power for generations, but now we are seeing more and more Greeks really supporting Syriza, which has come as a big surprise to many, many people because it has come out of nowhere.”

There has also been a surge in popularity for far-right political parties, like the nationalist Golden Dawn, now controlling 18 parliamentary seats.

See also EUAustralia Online, “Immigration, anti-racism …”, 12.7.12

Picture   Flickr, mkhalili