ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hope in the Grecian Air

Syriza has brought back hope and national pride in Greece, but will it succeed?

The victory of the Coalition of the Radical Left — known colloquially by its acronym, Syriza (Synaspismós tis Rizospastikís Aristerás) — in the Greek elections on 25 January has, on the one hand, sent “shock waves” across the “Troika” (the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) and the bond markets, whereas, on the other, it has aroused a great deal of hope for better days among the Greek populace. What might the new government that was sworn in on 27 January — with Alexis Tsipras as prime minister and the well-known left–Keynesian economist and “erratic Marxist” (by his own admission), Yanis Varoufakis, as finance minister — mean for the majority of the Greek people who have been the victims of an externally imposed reduction of wages, pensions, and social spending as part of the quid pro quo for three successive “bailouts” in 2010, 2011 and 2012? And, importantly, what might the coming to power of Syriza mean for Europe?

Since its evolution in 2004 and until the euro crisis hit the Greek economy in 2010, Syriza just about managed to secure parliamentary representation, crossing the minimum threshold of 3% of the vote, getting to 5% in the October 2009 elections in which Pasok (the Greek acronym of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement), the so-called social–democratic party, won 44% of the vote and formed the government. So it was Pasok that presided over the collapse of the Greek economy in 2010 and the bankruptcy of the fisc, and this brought wind to Syriza’s sails. In the May 2012 polls and particularly the one that became inevitable just a month later, Syriza got into second place with 26.9% of the vote, just a little less than the right-wing New Democracy (ND) party’s 29.7%. The ND and Pasok, practising harsh austerity in the midst of a deep recession over the last six years — the economy has shrunk by 25% since 2010 — have totally failed to stand up to the Troika impositions, merely pleading with it to relax the so-called “conditionalities.” Greece’s public debt now stands at around 320 billion euros, 175% of its gross domestic product.

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