The dramatic rise of Greece’s far-left Syriza party in recent months culminated in a staggering victory in the country’s general election. The result announced on Sunday evening saw Syriza secure an expected 149 of 300 parliamentary seats, and deposing the incumbent New Democracy party.
The party performed far better than many had expected
Led by the charismatic and vociferously anti-austerity Alexis Tsipras, Syriza narrowly fell short of securing an outright majority in the election. However, the party performed far better than many had expected, and now takes centre stage in Greece’s negotiations with its creditors – the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB).
Syriza’s victory comes as Greece has been severely hit by austerity cuts. As a condition of a mammoth bailout from the EC, ECB and IMF, Greece’s previous New Democracy government had agreed to swingeing cuts to public spending. As a result, the country now has unemployment of 25.5 percent, with almost half of all 25-35 year olds out of work.
Tsipras has maintained that his government will not put up with the austerity any longer and is looking to renegotiate the terms Greece’s bailout. The country has borrowed almost €240bn since 2010 in order to prop up its economy, but still needs to negotiate the final €7.2bn. Syriza wants to write off the debt, while it has also hinted it would re-nationalise many foreign-owned assets in the country.
It seems highly unlikely that European leaders or the IMF will agree to any of these new terms, and so the prospect of Greece departing the Eurozone increases. While EU leaders have worried about that happening in the past, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to be more relaxed about Greece’s potential exit in recent weeks.