Coalition of the Radical Left

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Coalition of the Radical Left
Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς
Leader Alexis Tsipras
Slogan Ανοίγουμε δρόμο στην ελπίδα Anígume drómo stin elpída (We open a way to hope)
Founded 2004 (as an alliance)
22 May 2012 (as a party)[1][2]
Headquarters 39 Valtetsiou, 106 81 Athens, Greece
Youth wing SYRIZA Youth
Ideology Democratic socialism[3]
Eco-socialism[3][4]
Left-wing populism[5]
Alter-globalization[4]
Political position Left-wing[6][7]
European affiliation Party of the European Left[8]
European Parliament group European United Left/Nordic Green Left[9]
Colours      Red (official)
     Salmon (customary)
Parliament
149 / 300
European Parliament
6 / 21
Regions[10]
144 / 703
Website
www.syriza.gr
Politics of Greece
Political parties
Elections

The Coalition of the Radical Left[11] (Greek: Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς, Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás), known colloquially by its acronym SYRIZA (Greek: ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, pronounced [ˈsiɾiza]), is a left-wing political party in Greece, originally founded as a coalition of left-wing and radical left parties.

The coalition originally comprised a broad array of groups (thirteen in total) and independent politicians, including democratic socialists, left-wing populist and green left groups, as well as Maoist, Trotskyist, eurocommunist but also eurosceptic components. Additionally, despite the secular ideology, many members are Christian who, like their fellow atheistic members, are anticlerical[citation needed] and oppose privileges of the state-sponsored Orthodox Church of Greece.[12] Its parliamentary leader is Alexis Tsipras, formerly president of Synaspismós, the largest group in the coalition. From 2013 the coalition became a unitary party, although it retained its name with the addition of "United Social Front". Alexis Tsipras clarified that Syriza "does not support any sort of Euroscepticism”.[13]

In 2012 Syriza became the second largest party in the Greek parliament and the main opposition party. It came in first in the 2014 European Parliament election,[14] whilst in mid 2014 polls showed it had become the country's most popular party.[15][16] In 2015, in the snap polls held on 25 January, Syriza defeated the ruling coalition and went on to become the winning coalition getting 36% popular votes and 149 out of 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament.[17]

Syriza has been characterized as an anti-establishment party,[18] whose success has sent "shock-waves across the EU".[19] Although it has abandoned its old identity, that of a hard-left protest voice, becoming more populist in character, and claiming that it will not abandon the Eurozone,[20] at the same time, its leader Alexis Tsipras has declared that the "euro is not my fetish".[21] Recently, the Vice President of the European Parliament and Syriza MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis stated that Greece should "be a respectable member of the European Union and the euro zone"[22] and that "there is absolutely no case for a Grexit".[23]

Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

Although Syriza was formally launched before the legislative election of 2004, the roots of the process that led to its formation can be traced back to the Space for Dialogue for the Unity and Common Action of the Left (Greek: Χώρος Διαλόγου για την Ενότητα και Κοινή Δράση της Αριστεράς) in 2001.[24] The "Space" was composed of various organisations of the Greek Left that, despite different ideological and historical backgrounds, had shared common political action in several important issues that had arisen in Greece at the end of the 1990s, such as the Kosovo War, privatizations, social and civil rights,[25] etc.

The "Space" provided the common ground from which the participating parties could work together on issues such as:

Even though the "Space" was not a political organisation, but rather an effort to bring together the parties and organisations that attended, it gave birth to some electoral alliances for the local election of 2002,[27] the most successful being the one led by Manolis Glezos for the super-prefecture of Athens-Piraeus. The "Space" also provided the common ground from which several of the member parties and organizations launched the Greek Social Forum,[28] part of the larger European Social Forum.

2004 general election[edit]

The defining moment for the birth of Syriza came with the legislative election of 2004. Most of the participants of the "Space" sought to develop a common platform that could lead to an electoral alliance.[29] This led to the eventual formation of the Coalition of the Radical Left, in January 2004.[30]

The parties that originally formed the Coalition of the Radical Left in January 2004 were:

Although the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE) had participated in the "Space", it decided not to take part in the Coalition.[why?][31]

In the election, the coalition gathered 241,539 votes (3.3% of the total) and elected six members to parliament. All six were members of Synaspismós, the largest of the coalition parties. This led to much tension within the coalition.

Crisis and revitalisation[edit]

Former President of SYRIZA, Alekos Alavanos, speaking in Athens.

After the 2004 election, the smaller parties accused Synaspismós of not honoring an agreement to have one of its members of parliament resign so that Yannis Banias of the AKOA could take his seat.[32] Tension built up and resulted in the split of the Internationalist Workers Left and the formation of Kokkino, both of which remained within the coalition. The frame of the crisis within Syriza was the reluctance of Synaspismós to adopt and maintain the political agreement for a clear denial of "centre-left politics".

Three months after the legislative elections, Synaspismós chose to run independently from the rest of the coalition for the 2004 elections for the European Parliament and some of the smaller parties of the coalition supported the feminist Women for Another Europe (Greek: Γυναίκες για μια Άλλη Ευρώπη) list.[33]

The crisis ended in December 2004 with the 4th convention of Synaspismós, when a large majority within the party voted for the revitalization of the coalition.[34] This change of attitude was further intensified with the election of Alekos Alavanos, a staunch supporter of the coalition,[35] as president of Synaspismós, after its former leader, Nikos Konstantopoulos, stepped down.

The coalition was further strengthened by the successful organization in May 2006 of the 4th European Social Forum in Athens, as well as by a number of largely successful election campaigns, such as those in Athens and Piraeus, during the local elections of 2006. The coalition ticket in the municipality of Athens was headed by the 30-year-old Alexis Tsipras, proposed by Alavanos who declared Synaspismós's "opening to the new generation".

2007 general election[edit]

The Coalition of the Radical Left was the big surprise in the 2007 Greek legislative election (16 September 2007), increasing its votes by 120,000 and gaining an unexpected 5,04%. Opinion polls had already indicated that the Coalition was expected to make significant gains in the election, with predictions ranging from 4% to 5% of the electorate.[36]

Prior to the election, in 22 June, the participating parties had agreed on a common declaration. The signed Declaration of the Coalition of the Radical Left outlined the common platform on which the Coalition would compete in the following election and outlined the basis for the political alliance.[37]

The Coalition of 2007 has also expanded from its original composition in 2004. On 20 June 2007, the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE) announced its participation into the Coalition.[38] On August 21 the environmentalist Ecological Intervention (Greek: Οικολογική Παρέμβαση) also joined,[39] and on 22 August 2007, the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) also announced its own participation to the Coalition.[40]

On 2 September the Areios Pagos refused to include the title of DIKKI in the Syriza electoral alliance, claiming that the internal procedures followed by DIKKI were flawed. This was criticised furiously by both Syriza and DIKKI as inappropriate interference by the courts in party political activity.[41]

2007–2011[edit]

Six party leaders' televised debate ahead of the 2009 Greek legislative elections. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, is in the centre.

In 27 November 2007, Alavanos announced that, for private reasons, he would not be seeking to renew of his presidency of Synaspismós.[42] The 5th party congress of Synaspismós elected 33-year-old Alexis Tsipras, a municipal councillor for the municipality of Athens, as party president on 10 February 2008. Alavanos retained the parliamentary leadership of Syriza, however, as Tsipras was not at that time a member of parliament. Tsipras achieved considerable popularity with the Greek electorate, which led to a significant increase in support for Syriza in opinion polls – up to 18 percent at its peak.[43]

At the end of June 2008, Xekinima announced that it would join the coalition.[44]

During the run-up to the 2009 European Parliamentary elections Syriza, amid turbulent internal developments, saw its poll share dive to 4.7%, with the result that only one Syriza candidate (Nikos Hountis) was elected to the European Parliament. This caused renewed internal strife, leading to the resignation of former Synaspismós president Alekos Alavanos from his seat in the Greek parliament, a resignation that was, however, withdrawn a few days later.[45]

In the Greek legislative elections of October 2009, Syriza won 4.6% of the vote (slightly below its 2007 showing), returning 13 MPs. These included Tsipras, who took over as Syriza's parliamentary leader.

In June 2010, the Ananeotiki ("Renewing Wing") of radical social democrats in Synapsismós split away from the party, at the same time leaving Syriza. This reduced Syriza's parliamentary group to 9 MPs. The 4 MPs who left formed a new party, the Democratic Left.

2012 general elections[edit]

In a move of voters away from the parties which participated in the coalition government under the premiership of Lucas Papademos in November 2011, Syriza gained popular support in the opinion polls, as did the Communist Party of Greece and the Democratic Left. Opinion polls in the run-up to the May 2012 election showed Syriza with 10-12% support.[46] The minor Unitary Movement (a PASOK splinter group) also joined the coalition in March 2012.

In legislative elections in May 2012, the party polled over 16% and quadrupled its number of seats, becoming the second largest party in parliament, behind New Democracy.[47] After the election, Tsipras was invited by the president of Greece to try to form a government, but failed to form a government of the Left owing to a lack of parliamentary numbers. Subsequently, Tsipras rejected a proposal by the president to join a coalition government with the pro-austerity parties.[48]

For the second general election in June 2012, Syriza re-registered as a single party (adding the "United Social Front" moniker) instead of as a coalition, in order to be eligible to receive the 50 "bonus" seats given to the largest polling party under the Greek electoral system.[49] However, although Syriza increased its share of the vote to just under 27%, New Democracy polled 2.8% more than Syriza and claimed the bonus. With 71 seats, Syriza became the main opposition party, facing a governing coalition of ND, PASOK, and the Democratic Left.

Unitary party[edit]

In July 2013, a SYRIZA Party Congress was held to discuss the organization of the party. Important outcomes included a decision in principle to dissolve the participating parties in SYRIZA in favour of a unitary party. However, implementation was deferred for three months to allow time for four of the parties which were reluctant to dissolve to consider their positions. Tsipras was confirmed as leader with 74% of the vote. However delegates supporting the Left Platform (Greek: "Αριστερή Πλάτφορμα") led by Panayiotis Lafazanis, which wants to leave the door open to quitting the euro, secured 30% (60) of the seats on SYRIZA's central committee.[50] A modest success was also claimed by the "Communist Platform" (Greek section of the International Marxist Tendency), who managed to get two members elected to the party's central committee.[51]

2014 elections[edit]

Local elections and elections to the European Parliament were held in May 2014. In the European elections Syriza placed first with just over 26.5% of votes cast, ahead of New Democracy on 22.7%. The position in the local elections was less clear-cut, due to the number of "non-party" local tickets and independents contending for office. Syriza's main success was the election of Rena Dourou to the Attica Regional governorship with 50.8% of the second-round vote over the incumbent Yiannis Sgouros. Its biggest disappointment was the failure of Gabriel Sakellarides to win the Athens Mayoralty election, being beaten in the second ballot by Giorgos Kaminis with 51.4% to his 48.6%.

Thessaloniki program[edit]

Main article: Thessaloniki program

In September 2014, SYRIZA unveiled the Thessaloniki program, a set of policy proposals containing its central demands for economic and political restructuring.

2015 snap election[edit]

After the Hellenic Parliament failed to elect a new President of State by December 29, 2014, the parliament was dissolved and snap elections were called for January 25, 2015. Syriza had a "narrow but steady lead" in opinion polls, but its anti-austerity position worried investors and eurozone supporters.[52] The party's chief economic advisor, John Milios, has downplayed fears that Greece under a Syriza government would exit the eurozone,[53] while shadow development minister George Stathakis disclosed the party’s intention to crack down on Greek oligarchs if it wins the election.[54] Syriza also received backing from the leader of Britain's Trades Union Congress, Frances O'Grady, who condemned "powerful forces mobilising against the interests of the Greek people."[55]

With almost 98 percent of the vote counted, Syriza had 36 percent, almost nine points more than the governing center-right New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who conceded defeat. The 36 percent votes convert into 149 out of 300 seats for the Greece Parliament including the 50 bonus seats for the largest party.

Tsipras was congratulated by French president Francois Hollande who stressed Greco-French "friendship," as well as by leftist leaders all over Europe, including Pablo Iglesias of Spain's Podemos and Katja Kipping of Germany's Die Linke. German government official Hans-Peter Friedrich however expressed a threat: "The Greeks have the right to vote for whom they want. We have the right to no longer finance Greek debt."[56]

Government formation[edit]

Shortly after the election, Stavros Theodorakis, leader of The River, was expected to meet with Alexis Tspiras in the next 48 hours.[57] However, on 26 January 2015, Tsipras and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos surprisingly agreed to form an "anti-austerity coalition". Yanis Varoufakis, expected to be appointed Minister of Finance, said they would "come to Frankfurt and Berlin and Brussels with [...] a plan to minimise the cost of that Greek debacle to the average German. We must be very careful not to toy with fast or loose talk of Grexit. Grexit is not on the cards."[58]

Shadow cabinet[edit]

In 2012, Syriza appointed a "shadow cabinet" of spokespeople and advisors for articulating the party's position in opposition to the coalition government.[59]

Former constituent parties[edit]

Coalition supporters in a 2007 rally. Flags of Synaspismós, AKOA, DIKKI, and Kokkino can be seen, as well as those of the coalition itself.

SYRIZA as a unitary party was formed through the merger of the following parties (in alphabetical order in English):[60]

Election results[edit]

Hellenic Parliament[edit]

Hellenic Parliament
Election Votes  % Seats +/– Government
2004 241,539 3.3 (#4)
6 / 300
in opposition
2007 361,211 5.0 (#4)
14 / 300
Increase8 in opposition
2009 315,627 4.6 (#5)
13 / 300
Decrease1 in opposition
May 2012 1,061,265 16.8 (#2)
52 / 300
Increase39 in opposition
Jun 2012 1,655,022 26.9 (#2)
71 / 300
Increase19 in opposition
2015 2,246,064 36.3 (#1)
149 / 300
Increase78 in coalition

European Parliament[edit]

European Parliament
Election Votes  % Seats +/–
2009 240,898 4.7 (#5)
1 / 22
2014 1,518,608 26.6 (#1)
6 / 21
Increase5

European parliament[edit]

Syriza holds 6 seats in the European parliament.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]