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Crushed by the electoral victory of conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in June, which led to the resignation of its charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras, the main Greek opposition party, Syriza, is crumbling, with an exodus of dozens of members from weekend course.
The radical left party gained European-wide prominence at the height of the financial crisis in 2015, when it appeared that Tsipras and his finance minister Yanis Varoufakis were on the verge of forcing Athens out of the eurozone in a high-stakes game of tightrope. Debt hawks led by Germany within the EU.
Eight years later, the party now seems to be running out of steam. The unlikely election of Stefanos Kasselakis, a former Goldman Sachs banker, as head of Syriza has infuriated much of the party’s core, who see him as out of touch with Greece and its left. His meteoric rise from obscurity; its lack of a political agenda; the media gossip surrounding her husband, an American nurse; the couple’s Cartier rings; and Kasselakis’s trips to the gym all angered his critics within the party.
The Greek left has already fragmented into several small parties, including two founded by former Syriza officials; this number seems destined to increase.
“Syriza’s position as the main opposition is already undermined, this leads to further fragmentation of the opposition and strengthens the dominant party system,” said Costas Eleftheriou, assistant professor at the Democritus University of Thrace. “Kasselakis is not the cause of the current crisis, he is the symptom of a long-standing crisis that Syriza has found itself in since 2015, when it came to power and transformed itself. »
After several weeks of tension, a left-wing faction within the party (called “Umbrella”) announced its withdrawal on Sunday, accusing Kasselakis of “Trumpian practices… right-wing populism, shouting, fanaticism and hatred for the historical trajectory of the left.” . .”
Umbrella is led by former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, a British-trained economist who had to navigate complex debt crisis negotiations with the EU after Varoufakis’ abrupt departure following his theatrics in 2015. Tsakalotos had been Kasselakis’s rival for the party leadership.
“We feel our historical responsibility. We insist on being left-wing and our vision is socialism with freedom and democracy,” the Umbrella faction said in its farewell statement.
Umbrella’s departure became increasingly likely after Kasselakis sought to expel key dissidents from the party. When it became clear that his expulsion proposals were unlikely to be approved by party authorities, he called for a referendum among all party members.
Several party heavyweights, including a former minister in the Syriza government and two of its current deputies, are among the 46 signatories of the Umbrella declaration, following a two-day central committee meeting marred by shouts and protests. sharp accusations.
A senior official targeted by expulsion, Stefanos Tzoumakas, also announced that he was resigning on Sunday, while another, in line of sight, resigned on Friday.
Others have hinted they may soon follow.
“Kasselakis deliberately chose the path of building the ‘enemy within’ rather than the path of synthesis,” a group led by Efi Achtsioglou, his main opponent for the party leadership, said in a statement. “It’s a no-win choice that trivializes politics, democracy and the left.”
In response to Sunday’s exodus, Kasselakis said: “There are no more expulsions. We therefore no longer have any reason to hold a referendum.”
He also demanded that sitting MPs who leave the party give up their seats to Syriza politicians.
The path to follow?
The unexpected election of Kasselakis has been attributed primarily to Syriza supporters’ desperate need for new blood and renewal after the party’s bruising defeat.
The 35-year-old businessman, blessed with movie star good looks, was nicknamed “the golden boy” because of his background in investment banking. Until last spring, he was based in the United States. In May, he was one of the “at large” candidates on Syriza’s ballot in the Greek general elections seems doomed to failure due to its low ranking on the list. In late August, he introduced himself to the public through a social media campaign, promising them the American dream, or at least a Greek version of the American Democratic Party.
So far, opinion polls show he has failed to reinvigorate support for the party. POLITICO’s poll shows Syriza languishing at 16 percent, miles behind Mitsotakis’ New Democracy at 39 percent.
It remains to be seen whether it will ultimately be a force for renewal or a catalyst for the disappearance of a party in crisis.
According to Nick Malkoutzis, editor-in-chief and co-founder of the economic analysis site MacroPolis, Kasselakis hopes to make the party stronger by driving out dissidents, which would allow him to shape it according to his vision. However, the risks are high.
“The unrest within Syriza could benefit the third party, PASOK, but even after its recent rise in opinion polls, the center-left group is quite weak and far from being able to take full advantage of the Syriza crisis and to challenge Mitsotakis’s New Democracy,” Malkoutzis said.
“Greek’s center-left faces an uphill struggle to regain a foothold in the country’s politics.”