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Who are Syriza?

Are they as radical as is claimed?

Updated 7am 

WHEN YOU HEAR mention of Greek political party Syriza, and you’ll hear it a lot today, their name will probably be preceded by a number of descriptors.

‘Left-wing radicals’, ‘anti-austerity party’ or even ‘anti-euro activists’ are all used to introduce the party that just fell a couple of seats short of winning a majority in the Greek general election.

But who are the 10-year-old party who could well take the reigns of the EU’s most precarious economy?

Austerity

First of all, yes, Syriza are anti-austerity. Leader Alexis Tsipras wrote in the Financial Times last Wednesday that Europe “must end austerity so as not to let fear kill democracy”.

“Austerity is not part of the European treaties; democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty are,” he argues. Adding that, if elected, it is Syiza’s duty to end austerity as the democratic will of the Greek people.

The party wants to increase revenue by clamping down on the “tax-evading economic oligarchy” he says continues to exist in Greece.

The party’s chief economist John Milios recently told The Guardian that the €1.3 billion saved from austerity measures on Greek workers could be mostly be recovered by a crackdown on tax evasion. Such measures he says have led to “slave labour” within the economy.

“We have young Greeks working for two to three euros per hour in many sectors of the economy,” he claimed.

Greece Toll Protest A protester holds a Greek flag north of Athens. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Leaving the euro

No, unilaterally pulling out of the euro is not part of of Syriza’s plan, although many argue such an outcome is inevitable should the party pursue their policies.

The party are in many ways gearing up for a game of brinkmanship with the core EU leaders who are reluctant to give anything away.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, has said that a ‘Grexit’ would be “manageable” but the EU commission has said that euro membership is “irrevocable”.

But Tsipras said this week that the party 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.”

Syriza are calling for a European debt conference, a proposal they compared to the 1953 London Conference that helped Germany recover and grow in post-war Europe.

Milios has also has said that Greece needs a debt write-off of up to 50%.

Greece Elections Alexis Tsipras has guided his party to the top of Greek politics. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Alexis Tsipras

Tsipras himself is a mirror of his party’s anti-establishment views. The son of a civil engineer lives in rented accommodation in Athens with his partner and their two children.

Starting out as a Young Communist, the motorbike-riding Tsipras has lead the Syriza party since 2008

During that time he has built alliances with like-minded parties across Europe such as the Left Front in France and its Die Linke counterpart in Germany. He has also argued recently that, unless parties like his listened to by the EU and not dismissed, disillusionment will force people to the far-right parties across the continent.

His attacks on German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the wicked champion of austerity go down particularly well at home and find an echo abroad too.

How did they get to today?

The Greek population voted to elect 300 lawmakers meaning the top party needs 151 seats for an absolute majority.

It’s a little more complicated than that though, 238 lawmakers are directly elected, 12 are honorific seats proportionately assigned to parliamentary parties, and the remaining 50 seats are given to the top party as a bonus to ensure that a majority government is formed.

The winner of the vote has three days in which to form a government (Syriza is just a couple of seats short of a majority), after which the task passes to the leader of the next biggest party. If all the parties prove unequal to the task, new elections will be held in early March.

- With reporting from © – AFP 2015

First published 25 January 

Read: This chart shows why you’re getting less and less US dollars for your euro >

Read: Greece receives two-month extension on its bailout as 300 arrested in protests >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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