Syriza, the anti-austerity far left party elected to power in Greece, is set on a collision course with international lenders and the European Union on the terms on which the beleagured country was bailed out since 2010 with a total package of 240 billion Euros.
A key member of the EU, Greece has been wracked by massive unemployment and severe austerity measures to meet the conditions of the bailout extended by the International Monetary Fund, EU and the European Central Bank (ECB), which imposed major cuts and restructuring.
As the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, 40, becomes Greece’s youngest ever prime minister, the hopes of millions of unemployed rests on him as he seeks re-negotiation and re-scheduling of the bailout package in the face of opposition from other EU countries.
“The Greece election will increase economic risk for us…Syriza’s promises will be very difficult to deliver and incompatible with what the eurozone currently demands of its member”, Britain’s chancellor George Osborne said in London, while leaders in other EU capitals reflected his concerns over hopes sparked by the election results that a substantial part of Greece’s debt would be written off.
With 149 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament, Syriza with its anti-austerity, anti-bailout message entered into a coalition with the right-wing Green Independents, which won 13 seats. The Euro plunged to an 11-year low as the results were declared, before recovering.
Tsipras told jubilant supporters that he wanted to write off half of Greece’s 318 billion Euro debt, but was ready to negotiate ‘a viable solution’, and added that he wanted the country to stay in the eurozone.
He said: “Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and suffering. The new Greek government will be ready to cooperate and negotiate for the first time with our peers a just, mutually beneficial and viable solution.”
But ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure said Greece had to pay its debts and warned Tsipras to play by the “European rules of the game”. He told Europe 1 Radio: “There is no room for unilateral action in Europe that doesn’t exclude a discussion, for example, on the rescheduling of this debt.”
Europe’s finance ministers were scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss Syriza’s sweeping victory.