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Greece’s far-left Tsipras puts rescue deal in doubt

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2012-05-09

The leader of Greece’s far-left Syriza party has warned the international community that if it forms a cabinet, it will renege on the terms of the 240-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout plan.

Alexis Tsipras (pictured), leader of the Greek far-left coalition party Syriza, is the new bête noire of the European Union – and especially so for Germany’s Angela Merkel, the mastermind of the European fiscal pact that aims to restrict government debt levels across Europe.

Syriza wants to renegotiate the austerity measures agreed between the former government and the international community.

“The popular verdict [of the elections] has clearly nullified the loan agreement and pledges sent to Europe and the IMF," the 37-year-old said in a televised address on Tuesday.

His party has been charged with the virtually impossible task of forming a coalition government by May 10.

On Wednesday Tsipras was to meet with leaders of the outgoing socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy parties for talks on forming a new coalition, parties with which Syriza has virtually nothing in common.

Beyond the hurdles the party faces domestically, Syriza’s position on renegotiating the bailout terms would threaten to put an end to ongoing international support.

Despite confirmation from the European commission on Wednesday that the latest instalment of the bailout package would be paid, what happens next remains far from certain.

"Our position is unchanged,” said a spokesman for Merkel’s CDU party on Wednesday. “Aid can only flow if the conditions [reforms for the austerity budget] are met,"

To the left of the left

Tsipras’ Greek critics accuse his party of being fundamentally anti-European.

"If we say no to everything, we leave the eurozone," Gikas Hardouvelis, economic advisor to outgoing Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, said on Wednesday.

The truth lies more in the hard-left stance of Syriza, rather than any fundamental anti-European sentiment.

The party was formed in 2001 from various communist groups that wanted to distance themselves from Moscow, and is made up of the more pro-European elements of the Greek KKE communist party.

Tsipras’ argues that beyond being the fault of Europe, Greece is in dire economic straits because “the debt is only taxes that the rich haven’t paid” and that “the two bailout plans are a ball and chain on our economy.”

The party’s political agenda shares similarities with other European left-wing parties, notably France’s Socialists.

Echoing the policies of French President-elect François Hollande, Syriza has called for a Europe-wide financial transaction tax and wants top-tier earners to pay income tax at 75% on income over 500,000 euros (as opposed to Hollande’s 1 million).

Tsipras has also called for the European Investment bank to play a more active role in promoting growth over the unpopular austerity measures.

The party’s national programme, however, is far to the left of Hollande’s Socialist Party.

Tsipras wants to renationalise all Greek banks and to impose centralized management for all the country’s banking activities.

He also wants to provide unemployment benefits for unlimited periods as well as imposing rules to limit private companies from being able to fire workers without authorisation from a central authority.

And even if Tsipras does not succeed in gorming a coalition government, notes Jean Marcou, political sciences professor Grenoble's Institut d'études politiques on website rue89.com, his electoral success will have "put into question the Greek parliamentary system as it has existed since 1975".

Date created : 2012-05-09

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