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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Grèce: Syriza, histoire de la coalition de gauche qui monte

by Fabien Perrier

Greece: Syriza, History of a Left Coalition With the Wind in Its Sails

Translated Wednesday 9 May 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Athens, by our special correspondent. Syriza, with 16.78% of the vote and 52 seats, is the second-strongest force in the Vouli, the Hellenic Parliament.

The final results published by the Greek Interior Ministry brook no debate. Syriza, the left coalition, has come in number two in these elections. The alliance, which brings together different radical left parties, and whose main member is Synaspimos, has made the most progress. Alexis Tsipras, its leader, has pulled off a master stroke: the left has chalked up its best score since the fall of the Colonels in 1974, and has won the second place that it has not had since 1958. Syriza has thus shaken up the monopoly on power which ND (right-wing) and Pasok had in Greece.

Tsipras, the youngest person in Greek political life.

To accomplish this, Alexis Tsipras, barely 38 years old, and the youngest person in Greek political life, first succeeded in overcoming a different test: getting the formations that make up Syriza to agree on a viable program. Whereas new austerity measures are planned beginning in June, he spoke a clear language during the campaign: Rejection of the current policies and of the memoranda, the cancelling of the debt, the reform of the statutes of the European Central Bank… Each of these themes struck a sympathetic note in the ears of the Greeks, who for over two years have borne austerity and its consequences: a fall in wages, in pensions, in minimal benefits, plus privatizations and the smashing of public services…

Tsipras analyzed these themes in his penultimate meeting in Athens on May 3. That evening he stood next to with Manolis Glezos, the Resistance fighter who became a national hero when he struck the Nazi flag flying from the Acropolis and who rejected the Colonels and has decried austerity. That evening, in a single stroke, Syriza revealed a concentrated version of its history.

The genesis of Syriza.

Syriza began in 2001. A group called “Space for dialogue for the unity and common action of the left” was created to debate topical questions affecting Greece, notably the war in Kosovo and the privatizations. The following year, coalitions were formed that were anchored on this “Space.” Manolis Glezos was an active member. The legislative elections of 2004 saw the official birth of Syriza around a program that served as the basis for an electoral alliance.

Former KKE currents.

The founding parties of the alliance are, for the most part, former currents of the KKE, the Greek Communist Party. They left the KKE due to ideological disagreements, such as the European question. They include Synaspismos (The Coalition of Left Movements and Ecology), the AKOA (Renewing Communist Ecological Left), the DEA (The Internationalist Workers’ Left), the KEDA (Movement for the United in Action Left – a split from the KKE), and the Active Citizens – an organization close to Manolis Glezos. In following elections (the 2007 legislative elections, the 2009 European parliament elections, and the 2009 legislative elections), Syriza gained a solid following in the Greek political scene, and various other left formations joined it, such as the KOE (The Communist Organization of Greece) and Ecological Intervention.

“We’re not giving up anything.”

With 16.78% of the vote in the 2012 legislative elections and 52 seats in the Vouli, the Hellenic Parliament, Syriza has made a qualitative leap. From a left-wing opposition force, Syriza might be called to form a government. At the rallies, one song was broadcast … in French. Which one? “On lâche rien” (“We’re not giving up anything.”). Syriza, confronted with austerity, is not giving up anything, either. “There cannot be a government of national salvation with the right wing, which signed austerity measures (…), which the people have rejected,” Alexis Tsipras declared following a meeting with Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, which gained 18.85% of the vote in the May 6 elections, but did not win a majority. Alexis Tsipras is not giving up anything in his action to stop austerity, either. He has stated that he personally is ready to form a governing alliance with the anti-austerity “left-wing powers.”

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