Greece's Syriza Party Experiences Internal Split Over Ideological Shift

SYRIZA human rights

Greece's major opposition party experienced a fracture on Sunday as a left-wing faction announced its separation, citing its newly elected leader's abandonment of its fundamental ideology in favour of a form of "right-wing populism."

The Umbrella faction, led by Euclid Tsakalotos, a former Finance Minister during Syriza's government from 2015 to 2019, declared its departure with a scathing statement, accusing party leader Stefanos Kasselakis of embracing "Trumpian practices and right-leaning populism."

Syriza, once a dominant political force, has been in turmoil since its decisive defeat by the conservative New Democracy party in the May and June double elections. Despite being in the opposition since 2019, Syriza had aspired to regain power but faced resounding rejection, securing only 17.8% of the vote compared to New Democracy's 40.6%. This outcome prompted longtime leader Alexis Tsipras to announce his resignation.

The split, which had been brewing for weeks due to mounting criticism of the leader from within the party, became inevitable when Kasselakis expressed his intent to expel three prominent members of the Umbrella faction, all of whom were former ministers.

When it became apparent that he might not succeed through party mechanisms, Kasselakis proposed holding a referendum among party members on the matter.

This proposal drew criticism even from his own supporters. During a tumultuous session of the party's Central Committee on Saturday, Kasselakis' confrontational speech was frequently interrupted by boos and cries of "shame!" Both Umbrella and supporters of Effie Achtsioglou, Kasselakis' primary rival in the leadership election of last September, left the session before its conclusion.

Kasselakis won the leadership election that followed Syriza's electoral defeat in September. As a political newcomer and a U.S. resident with no prior affiliation with the party before entering the race for the May election, he unexpectedly emerged as the favourite. A four-minute video recounting his life story propelled his rise to prominence.

Kasselakis' approach, grounded in his strong social media presence, charisma, and background as a former Goldman Sachs employee and shipowner, created tensions with traditional leftists who criticized his "post-politics" style. Some also disapproved of his positions, such as advocating employee stock options, and found his overall ideology ambiguous. He was even compared to former U.S. President Donald Trump and Italian comedian Beppe Grillo, founder of a populist political party.

On the other hand, Kasselakis' supporters accused their rivals of conspiring to undermine the former leader Tsipras in the lead-up to the disastrous elections and for years prior. The current opinion polls, which place Syriza in close competition for second place with the socialist Pasok party, further exacerbated the internal strife within Syriza.

While the future plans of the Umbrella faction remain unclear, it is anticipated that they will establish a new left-wing political party with strong support from most of Syriza's youth wing.

Achtsioglou, who leads her own faction called 6+6, has chosen to remain within Syriza, but her relationship with the leader has been strained. After the departure of the left-wing faction, she and her group issued their own statement criticizing Kasselakis for his "deeply offensive and divisive speech" and accusing him of adopting the vocabulary of the alt-right. Another split within the party cannot be ruled out.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024