Alexis Tsipras, leader of the anti-austerity party Syriza, is heading into the crucial Greek election on Sunday with a strong tailwind of support, leaving the 40-year-old the odds-on favourite to become the country’s next prime minister.
Years of harsh government cuts, staggeringly high unemployment (25.8% as of last October), and an economy that remains roughly 25% smaller than it was six years ago, has made the population distrustful of traditional parties and opened the door to new ones that want to take the country in a different direction.
A poll conducted between Jan. 19-20 gave Syriza a 4.2% lead over the incumbent New Democracy party, with 31.2% support. For a party that only launched in 2004, this alone is a remarkable achievement.
Despite Syriza’s popularity, there remains a lot of confusion, at least outside of Greece, about what exactly the party stands for. Helpfully, Tsipras has written an article for the Financial Times in which he lays out his platform and explains his vision for Greece.
Here are the key points:
- A Syriza victory will mean the age of Greek austerity will finally come to an end. As Tsipras says: “Austerity is not part of the European treaties; democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty are.”
- Contrary to what many seem to believe, the party does not intend to unilaterally pull Greece out of the eurozone. Indeed, surprisingly for some, Tsipras says he aims to hit European budget targets: “A Syriza government will respect Greece’s obligation, as a eurozone member, to maintain a balanced budget, and will commit to quantitative targets.”
- Tsipras plans to clamp down on tax-evasion by wealthy “oligarchs” to raise budget revenues and has promised to break with the “clientelist and kleptocratic practises” of previous administrations.
- Syriza will request a “European debt conference” in which they will demand a renegotiation of the repayment terms on the country’s mountainous sovereign debt pile.
- And, most importantly, the party is asking to be given time in which to deliver the reforms that Greece needs in order to put itself back into a path of economic growth and debt sustainability.
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