“For millions of people, the European dream has turned into a nightmare,” Alexis Tspiras, the leader of Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), said in a November 28 opinion piece in The Guardian.
Tsipras was explaining why he will campaign on behalf of the European Left party for president of the European commission in elections next May. He said he was driven by the “desire to reunite Europe and rebuild it on a democratic and progressive basis. There is an alternative to the present crisis and it is our duty and destiny to fight for it.”
The move comes as Greece enters an uncertain period. Negotiations with the troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the European Commission are still ongoing — more than three years after Greece's debt-crisis began.
Greece continues to be frequently rocked by strikes and protests against the devastation caused by troika-imposed austerity. Fighting against staff cuts, an ongoing university strike will likely cause the academic semester to be cancelled.
Furthermore, the reopening of the national broadcaster ERT (albeit with a heavily reduced workforce) has been met with ongoing protest actions, backed by SYRIZA. It is a sign of the party’s increasing presence as a political force on the streets.
Expanding on its broad anti-austerity message, SYRIZA has also become increasingly confrontational towards the New Democracy-led coalition government on a range of issues.
Last month, SYRIZA sought to block legislation on generic brand prescription drugs claiming that it would benefit multinationals.
In his statement, Tsipras spoke of his desire to change the eurozone deal and end waves of austerity hitting people across the continent: “Europe needs an anti-austerity and anti-recession front, a solidarity movement for its working people ... This could deliver a pact for democracy, development and social justice.
“We must rebuild solidarity among the young, the workers, the pensioners and the unemployed to break down the new dividing line between Europe's rich and poor …
“It is time for Europe to stop the shocking breach of human rights by reshaping the state, restoring growth and creating high-quality, stable jobs with the protections that have historically contributed to the European social model.”
This comes as Tsipras himself visited Argentina and Brazil late last year seeking advice on economic recovery models.
With Greek unemployment at 27% and youth unemployment above 60%, seeking to transform European institutions is a bold promise.
This EU-wide orientation will further differentiate SYRIZA from other left parties in Greece, such as the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Front of the Greek Anti-Captialist Left (ANTARSYA), who call for a complete withdrawal from the EU and troika institutions.
SYRIZA is hoping to re-engage the Greek electorate with an anti-memorandum platform that aims to transform Europe. It is proposing to create a more transparent tax system, separate the public service from long-standing party dependency, and fight corruption through anti-oligopolistic legislation.
SYRIZA aims to win support for a left pole against austerity in a context where the crisis has caused the political middle ground to fall away. This led to a major collapse in support for former heavyweight PASOK and a rise of the fascist Golden Dawn party.
With the fresh face of Tsipras leading the call, it signifies a rapid maturation of a party that seeks to capitalise on its newfound momentum and political infrastructure.
Standing for the presidency of the European commission on behalf of the European Left party will serve to quell the fears of political immaturity within sections of the electorate.
Tsipras hopes that a strong result will lead to a parliamentary victory in the next Greek elections.