Tags: Syriza | radical left | Alexis Tsipras | greece | austerity | eu

What to Expect if Greece Turns Far Left in Anti-Austerity Vote

John Gizzi By Friday, 23 January 2015 08:21 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

As Greece readies to go to the polls, the growing odds that voters Sunday may put the "Coalition of the Radical Left" (the English translation of the Greek party's name) in charge has begun to set off alarm bells from the European Union to Washington, D.C.

Fears worldwide center on the promise of Syriza, as the "Radical Left" party is called,  and its leader Alexis Tsipras to abandon the austerity programs under which Greece has been repaying the 240 million-euro loan it received after the Mediterranean nation’s debt was lowered to "junk bond" status in April 2010.

Given the interconnected nature of the global economy, a failure by Greece to continue the repayment of its international obligations could deal a sharp blow to both the European and American economies.

As Desmond Lachman, resident fellow on economics at the American Enterprise Institute, told Newsmax in December: "If Tsipras and Syriza do come to power and get the opportunity to pursue their agenda, it will set Greece on a collision course with the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission," the so-called "troika," which made possible the "rescue loan."

Obviously recognizing the mounting fears that Syriza will try to write off Greece’s massive foreign debt, prime minister-in-waiting Tsipras took to the "Comments" page of the Financial Times on Wednesday to assure the world community his new "social contract" would actually "strengthen the eurozone."

"We must end austerity so as not to let fear kill democracy," wrote Tsipras, widely known as "the Greek Chavez." "Unless the forces of progress and democracy change Europe, it will be [French nationalist leader] Marine LePen and her far-right allies that change it for us."

Tsipras went on to insist that a Syriza government "will respect Greece’s obligation to maintain a balanced budget and will commit to quantitative targets."

But a translation of the actual Syriza party manifesto raises serious doubts as to whether Greece could possibly balance its budget — much less achieve a surplus, which was achieved last year for the first time since 1948 under the austerity measures overseen by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Translated by Alexander Skouras of the Atlas Network, the "Thessaloniki Program" calls for: free electricity and food stamps for 300,000 households; a state housing program; reintroduction of the 13th pension per year for retirees earning less than 700 euros per month (an 8 percent increase); free and universal healthcare; free public transportation for lower incomes; increasing the minimum wage to 751 euros to 510 per month; and a change in the labor laws to make it harder to fire workers and to strengthen collective bargaining agreements.

Writing in the FT, Tsipras calls for a "European debt conference" that would end austerity and "likewise give a strong boost to growth in Europe."

But his party’s platform suggests more spending as an alternative to the austerity under which Greece has been meeting its loan obligations.

Syriza calls for, Skouras’ research found, "a 'haircut' [reduction] of the larger part of the Greek debt, a 'payment moratorium,' and a European 'New Deal' with public expenses to stimulate growth, and quantitative easing through the direct purchase of Greek bonds by the [European Central Bank]."

No one in an official position will yet comment on what will happen if Syriza and its leader, Tsipras, come to power Sunday.

Asked about this scenario by Newsmax during a trip to Washington on Tuesday, Federica Mogherini, the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, told Newsmax: "One of my basic rules — and I’m sorry I’m not too generous in this case — is I will not comment on the internal electoral processes a few days before the elections, at least to show respect to the oldest democracy in the world."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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When Greece goes to the polls on Sunday, the growing odds that voters may put the anti-austerity Syriza, or "Coalition of the Radical Left," in charge has begun to set off alarm bells from the European Union to Washington, D.C.
Syriza, radical left, Alexis Tsipras, greece, austerity, eu
Friday, 23 January 2015 08:21 AM
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