The Coalition of the Radical Left (Greek: Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς, romanized: Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás), mostly known by the syllabic abbreviation Syriza (//, sometimes stylised SYRIZA.; Greek: ΣΥΡΙΖΑ [ˈsiriza]; a pun on the Greek adverb σύρριζα, meaning "from the roots" or "radically"), is a political party in Greece originally founded in 2004 as a coalition of left-wing and radical left parties.
|Founded||2004political alliance) (as a |
2012 (as a political party)
|Headquarters||Eleftherias Sq. 1, 105 53 Athens, Greece|
|Youth wing||SYRIZA Youth|
|Political position||Centre-left to left-wing|
|European affiliation||Party of the European Left|
|European Parliament group||European United Left–Nordic Green Left|
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It is the second largest party in the Hellenic Parliament, with party chairman Alexis Tsipras serving as Prime Minister of Greece from 26 January 2015 to 20 August 2015 and from 21 September 2015 to 8 July 2019.
Although Syriza was launched before the 2004 legislative election, the roots of the process that led to its formation can be traced back to the Space for Dialogue for the Unity and Common Action of the Left (Greek: Χώρος Διαλόγου για την Ενότητα και Κοινή Δράση της Αριστεράς) in 2001. The Space was composed of various organizations of the Greek Left that despite different ideological and historical backgrounds had shared common political action in several important issues that had arisen in Greece at the end of the 1990s, such as the Kosovo War, privatizations and social and civil rights.
The Space provided the common ground from which the participating parties could work together on issues such as:
- Against the neoliberal reform of the pension and social security systems
- Opposition to new anti-terrorism legislation
- The preparation of the Greek participation at the 2001 international demonstration in Genoa.
- Review the role of the European Union and redetermine Greece's position in it.
Even though the Space was not a political organization, but rather an effort to bring together the parties and organizations that attended, it gave birth to some electoral alliances for the local elections of 2002, the most successful being the one led by Manolis Glezos for the super-prefecture of Athens-Piraeus. The Space also provided the common ground from which several of the member parties and organizations launched the Greek Social Forum, part of the larger European Social Forum.
2004 general election
The defining moment for the birth of Syriza came with the legislative election of 2004. Most of the participants of the Space sought to develop a common platform that could lead to an electoral alliance. This led to the eventual formation of the Coalition of the Radical Left, in January 2004.
The parties that had formed the Coalition of the Radical Left in January 2004 were the:
- Coalition of Left, of Movements and Ecology (Synaspismós or SYN)
- Renewing Communist Ecological Left (AKOA)
- Internationalist Workers Left (DEA)
- Movement for the United in Action Left (KEDA) (a splinter group of the Communist Party of Greece)
- Active Citizens (a political organisation associated with Manolis Glezos)
- Other independent left-wing groups or activists
Although the Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE) had participated in the Space, it decided not to take part in the Coalition.
In the election, the coalition gathered 241,539 votes (3.3% of the total) and elected six members to parliament. All six were members of Synaspismós, the largest of the coalition parties. This led to much tension within the coalition.
Crisis and revitalization
After the 2004 election, the smaller parties accused Synaspismós of not honoring an agreement to have one of its members of parliament resign so that Yannis Banias of the AKOA could take his seat. Tension built up and resulted in the split of the Internationalist Workers Left and the formation of Kokkino, both of which remained within the coalition. The frame of the crisis within SYRIZA was the reluctance of Synaspismós to adopt and maintain the political agreement for a clear denial of "centre-left politics".
Three months after the 2004 legislative elections, Synaspismós chose to run independently from the rest of the coalition for the 2004 European elections and some of the smaller parties of the coalition supported the feminist Women for Another Europe (Greek: Γυναίκες για μια Άλλη Ευρώπη) list.
The crisis ended in December 2004 with the 4th convention of Synaspismós, when a large majority within the party voted for the continuation of the coalition. This change of attitude was further intensified with the election of Alekos Alavanos, a staunch supporter of the coalition, as president of Synaspismós, after its former leader, Nikos Konstantopoulos, stepped down.
The coalition was further strengthened by the organization in May 2006 of the 4th European Social Forum in Athens, and by a number of largely successful election campaigns, such as those in Athens and Piraeus, during the 2006 local elections. The coalition ticket in the municipality of Athens was headed by Alexis Tsipras, proposed by Alavanos who declared Synaspismós' "opening to the new generation".
2007 legislative election
On 16 September 2007, Syriza gained 5.0% of the vote in the 2007 Greek legislative election. Opinion polls had already indicated that the Coalition was expected to make significant gains in the election, with predictions ranging from 4% to 5% of the electorate.
Prior to the election, on 22 June, the participating parties had agreed on a common declaration. The signed Declaration of the Coalition of the Radical Left outlined the common platform on which the Coalition would compete in the following election and outlined the basis for the political alliance.
The Coalition of 2007 has also expanded from its original composition in 2004. On 20 June 2007, the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE) announced its participation into the Coalition. On 21 August the environmentalist Ecological Intervention (Greek: Οικολογική Παρέμβαση) also joined, and on 22 August 2007, the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) also announced its participation in the Coalition.
On 2 September, the Areios Pagos refused to include the title of DIKKI in the Syriza electoral alliance, claiming that the internal procedures followed by DIKKI were flawed. This was criticized by Syriza and DIKKI as inappropriate interference by the courts in party political activity.
On 27 November 2007, Alavanos announced that, for private reasons, he would not be seeking to renew his presidency of Synaspismós. The 5th party congress of Synaspismós elected Alexis Tsipras, a municipal councillor for the municipality of Athens, as party president on 10 February 2008. Alavanos retained the parliamentary leadership of Syriza, however, as Tsipras was not at that time a member of parliament. Tsipras achieved considerable popularity with the Greek electorate, which led to a significant increase in support for Syriza in opinion polls – up to 18 percent at its peak.
At the end of June 2008, Xekinima announced that it would join the coalition.
During the run-up to the 2009 European elections Syriza, amid turbulent internal developments, saw its poll share decrease to 4.7%, with the result that only one Syriza candidate (Nikos Hountis) was elected to the European Parliament. This caused renewed internal strife, leading to the resignation of former Synaspismós president Alekos Alavanos from his seat in the Greek parliament, a resignation that was, however, withdrawn a few days later.
In the 2009 legislative election held on 4 October 2009, Syriza won 4.6% of the vote (slightly below its 2007 showing), returning thirteen MPs to the Hellenic Parliament. The incoming MPs included Tsipras, who took over as Syriza's parliamentary leader.
In June 2010, the Ananeotiki ("Renewing Wing") of radical social democrats in Synapsismós split away from the party, at the same time leaving Syriza. This reduced Syriza's parliamentary group to nine MPs. The four MPs who left formed a new party, the Democratic Left (DIMAR).
2012 general elections
In a move of voters away from the parties which participated in the coalition government under the premiership of Lucas Papademos in November 2011, Syriza gained popular support in the opinion polls, as did the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and DIMAR. Opinion polls in the run-up to the May 2012 election showed Syriza with 10–12% support. The minor Unitary Movement (a PASOK splinter group) also joined the coalition in March 2012.
In first 2012 legislative election held on 6 May, the party polled over 16% and quadrupled its number of seats, becoming the second largest party in parliament, behind New Democracy (ND). After the election, Tsipras was invited by the president of Greece to try to form a government, but failed owing to a lack of parliamentary numbers. Subsequently, Tsipras rejected a proposal by the president to join a coalition government with the centre-right and centre-left parties.
For the second 2012 legislative election on 17 June 2012, Syriza re-registered as a single party (adding the United Social Front moniker) instead of as a coalition, in order to be eligible to receive the 50 "bonus" seats given to the largest polling party under the Greek electoral system. However, although Syriza increased its share of the vote to just under 27%, New Democracy polled 29.8% and claimed the bonus. With 71 seats, Syriza became the main opposition party to a coalition government composed of ND, PASOK, and DIMAR. Tsipras subsequently formed the Shadow Cabinet of Alexis Tsipras in July 2012.
In July 2013, a Syriza congress was held to discuss the organisation of the party. Important outcomes included a decision in principle to dissolve the participating parties in Syriza in favour of a unitary party. However, implementation was deferred for three months to allow time for four of the parties which were reluctant to dissolve to consider their positions. Tsipras was confirmed as chairman with 74% of the vote. However delegates supporting the Left Platform (Greek: Αριστερή Πλάτφορμα) led by Panayiotis Lafazanis, which wanted to leave the door open to quitting the euro, secured 30% (60) of the seats on Syriza's central committee. A modest success was also claimed by the "Communist Platform" (Greek section of the International Marxist Tendency), who managed to get two members elected to the party's central committee.
Local elections and elections to the European Parliament were held in May 2014. In the 2014 European election on 25 May 2014, Syriza reached first place with 26.5% of vote, ahead of New Democracy at 22.7%. The position in the local elections was less clear-cut, due to the number of "non-party" local tickets and independents contending for office. Syriza's main success was the election of Rena Dourou to the Attica Regional governorship with 50.8% of the second-round vote over the incumbent Yiannis Sgouros. Its biggest disappointment was the failure of Gabriel Sakellaridis to win the Athens Mayoralty election, being beaten in the second ballot by Giorgos Kaminis with 51.4% to his 48.6%.
January 2015 election
After the Hellenic Parliament failed to elect a new President of State by 29 December 2014, the parliament was dissolved and a snap legislative election was scheduled for 25 January 2015. Syriza had a lead in opinion polls, but its anti-austerity position worried investors and eurozone supporters. The party's chief economic advisor, John Milios, downplayed fears that Greece under a Syriza government would exit the eurozone while shadow development minister George Stathakis disclosed the party's intention to crack down on Greek oligarchs if it wins the election. In the election, Syriza defeated the incumbent New Democracy and became the largest party in the Hellenic Parliament, receiving 36.3% of the vote and 149 out of 300 seats.
Tsipras was congratulated by French president François Hollande who stressed Greco-French friendship, as well as by leftist leaders all over Europe, including Pablo Iglesias Turrión of Spain's Podemos and Katja Kipping of Germany's Die Linke. German government official Hans-Peter Friedrich however said: "The Greeks have the right to vote for whom they want. We have the right to no longer finance Greek debt." The Financial Times and Radio Free Europe reported on Syriza's ties with Russia and extensive correspondence with the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin. Early in the SYRIZA-led government of Greece, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexis Tsipras concluded a face-to-face meeting by announcing an agreement on boosting investment ties between the two nations. Alexis Tsipras also said that Greece would seek to mend ties between Russia and European Union through European institutions. Tsipras also said that Greece was not in favor of Western sanctions imposed on Russia, adding that it risked the start of another Cold War.
On 26 January 2015, Tsipras and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos agreed to form a coalition government of Syriza and ANEL, with Tsipras becoming Prime Minister of Greece and Greek-Australian economist Yanis Varoufakis appointed Minister of Finance and Panos Kammenos appointed Minister of Defence. In July 2015, Yanis Varoufakis was replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos as Minister of Finance.
Party split and September 2015 election
Following the acceptance by Tsipras and the Syriza government of the third Memorandum with the European Union on Greece's debt, 25 Syriza MPs who rejected the terms of the bailout, including the party's Left Platform and the Internationalist Workers Left faction, split to form a new party Popular Unity (Greek: Λαϊκή Ενότητα, Laïkí Enótita). They were led by Panagiotis Lafazanis. Many other activists left Syriza at this time.
International supporters of Syriza divided between those who continued to defend them and those who no longer could. Author and activist Helena Sheehan wrote "Syriza was a horizon of hope. Now it is a vortex of despair."
Having lost his majority in the Greek Parliament, Tsipras resigned as Prime Minister on 20 August 2015, and called a fresh election on 20 September 2015.
Although polls suggested a close contest between Syriza and New Democracy, in the event Syriza led ND by 7%, winning 145 seats. Popular Unity polled below the 3% threshold and therefore had no parliamentary representation. Tsipras renewed Syriza's previous coalition agreement with the Independent Greeks, giving the new government 155 seats out of 300 in the Greek Parliament.
- Alexis Tsipras – Prime Minister
- Giannis Dragasakis – Deputy Prime Minister
- Efklidis Tsakalotos – Finance
- Giorgos Stathakis – Economy, Development and Tourism
- Georgios Katrougalos – Labour and Social Affairs
- Nikos Toskas – Citizens' Protection
- Ioannis Mouzalas – Immigration Policy
- Panos Skourletis – Environment and Energy
- Nikos Kotzias – Foreign Affairs
- Panagiotis Kouroumblis – Interior
- Nikos Paraskevopoulos – Justice, Transparency & Human Rights
- Aristides Baltas – Culture and Sports
- Nikos Filis – Education, Research and Religious Affairs
- Andreas Xanthos – Health and Welfare
- Christos Spirtzis – Infrastructure, Transport and Networks
- Thodoris Dritsas – Maritime Affairs and Island Policy
- Vangelis Apostolou – Rural Development and Food
- Alekos Flambouraris – Coordinating Government Operations
- Nikos Pappas – State
- Olga Gerovassili – Government Spokesperson
Former constituent parties
- Also a number of independent leftist activists
After the creation of the unitary party on 2013 some of the constituent members decided to dissolve. That was true, for example, for Synaspismos, Renewing Communist Ecological Left, Ecosocialists of Greece and Unitary Movement.
On the other hand, after the acceptance of the 'third Memorandum' on 2015 organizations like Internationalist Workers' Left, Active Citizens, New Fighter, Democratic Social Movement, Anticapitalist Political Group and the Communist Tendency (section of IMT) joined the Left Platform to create Popular Unity.
The main constituent element of the original coalition was Synaspismos, a democratic socialist party, but Syriza was founded with a goal of uniting left-wing and radical left groups and had included a broad array of groups and independent activists as well as ideologies, from social democrats and democratic socialists to Marxist-Leninists and Trotskyists.
Additionally, despite its secular ideology, many members are Christians who are instead mainly opposed to the alleged privileges of the state-sponsored Orthodox Church of Greece. From 2013 the coalition became a unitary party, although it retained its name with the addition of United Social Front.
Syriza had been characterized as an anti-establishment party, whose success had sent "shock-waves across the EU". Although it has abandoned its old identity, that of a hard-left protest voice, becoming more populist in character, and stating that it will not abandon the eurozone, its chairman Alexis Tsipras has declared that the "euro is not my fetish". The Vice President of the European Parliament and Syriza MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis stated that Greece should "be a respectable member of the European Union and the euro zone" and that "there is absolutely no case for a Grexit". Although Alexis Tsipras clarified that Syriza "does not support any sort of Euroscepticism", at the same time the party is seen as a mildly Eurosceptic force. Since 2019, the party has also been seen as taking a small shift toward the centre-left, with leader Tsipras stating his goal was to build a broad progressive front without abandoning the core ideologies the party currently had.
Group of 53
The Group of 53, also known as 53+, are a faction within Syriza. The group was founded in mid-2014 and stands ideologically between the Left Platform and Tsipras's core backers. Both Euclid Tsakalotos and Gabriel Sakellaridis are members of the group. Another member of the group was Tassos Koronakis, the former secretary of the Syriza Central Committee who resigned following the announcement of the snap elections in September 2015.
The Left Platform were a faction within Syriza, positioned ideologically on the far-left of the party. In August 2015, 25 Left Platform MPs within Syriza left the party and formed Popular Unity to contest the snap elections. The grouping was led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis.
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A 2009 results are compared to the Synaspismos totals in the 2004 election.
|#||Leader||Portrait||Term of office||Prime Minister|
|1||Alekos Alavanos||2004||8 October 2009||—|
|2||Alexis Tsipras||8 October 2009||Incumbent||2015, 2015–2019|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Syriza.|
- Official website
- Only Syriza Can Save Greece. James K. Galbraith and Yanis Varoufakis. The New York Times, 23 June 2013.
- Kitsikis/article Grèce. Le Synaspismos tiraillé entre social-démocratie et anarchisme, Grande Europe, no.16, janvier 2010, La Documentation Française. Read on Line
- Greece: Phase One. Jacobin. 22 January 2015.
- The pro-worker, pro-growth experiment in Greece is under threat. Senator Bernie Sanders for The Guardian. 17 February 2015.
- Indebted yes, but not Guilty by Slavoj Žižek, Potemkin Review, 22 February 2015.