Following the loss of his parliamentary majority, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared that there would be a general election to be held on 20th September 2015. SYRIZA’s surprise victory essentially left his party back to where it was before the election, however the ruling coalition between SYRIZA and the right-wing anti-austerity Independent Greeks has been slightly diminished majority of only 5 seats. One week on from that victory, and with the new Greek government still in its infancy, the question now is what should SYRIZA do with this reaffirmed anti-austerity mandate.
The implications of SYRIZA’s victory for the rest of Europe are encouraging for those of us who oppose the neo-liberal hegemony of the EU in its current state. Having anti-austerity leaders present at meetings of European heads of state and meetings of European finance ministers will continue to challenge the economic status quo and bolster the movements across the continent that are demanding an alternative. If Podemos in Spain and the Left Bloc or Democratic Unity Coalition in Portugal take power in a similar way, a debt cancellation conference will become a more possible political suggestion. In August 2015 Christine Lagarde, the former French Finance Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and current head of the IMF, has stated that Greece should have its debt restructured; although this is not the same as debt cancellation, moving the conversation away from the arbitrary cutting public finances to looking at the debt burden will actually result in Greece becoming more financially stable.
The result of the election has actually elected an left-wing majority in the form of the the Greek Communist Party and SYRIZA; the limitations placed upon Greece by the ECB have prevented any form of societal improvement by the previous SYRIZA-led government but, because the bailout measures were implemented, Greece now has a track record of compliance with the Eurozone thus giving politicians in other European countries a little more political leeway to be more sympathetic to Greece.
If there is significant debt reconstruction and reform of the Eurozone, Tsipras will be liberated to invest in infrastructure projects and create jobs in both the public and private sectors. If, however, the ECB refuses to restructure Greece’s debt out of hand, Greece should leave the Eurozone in order to stimulate exports with the revenues from this invested into infrastructure projects. The Eurozone in its current form is not sustainable for Greece or for the other Eurozone nations; if the ECB refuses to countenance reform of any kind, Greece should get out before another crisis hits, and if Greece does get out the Euro will look much stronger because it would no longer have to bailout the economy to the same extent.
On a more political note, what the election showed more broadly was that if the anti-austerity Left united and stood alongside Tsipras’ party by establishing electoral pacts with SYRIZA, this united left-wing front would have been elected in a majority; Popular Unity split from SYRIZA in order to take up a more radical position in opposition to the European Union, and the Greek Communist Party (KKE) also stood in the election as the major left-wing force other than PASOK whose reputation has been severely damaged. Had Popular Unity, SYRIZA and the KKE stood together in one coalition, these left-wing anti-austerity forces would have a combined number of MPs of at least 160, which is more than SYRIZA’s current coalition has.
I have repeatedly said time and again that as long as the Left continues to divide itself rather than uniting against a common adversary it will never make substantive societal change, and my point is proven by SYRIZA’s electoral success as the party was formed after 17 political parties and other radicals came together in solidarity. Unless the KKE and Popular Unity do the same the radical leftist vote in Greece will be split and the parties of neo-liberalism like PASOK and New Democracy will be allowed back into government.