By Livia Durdia
The leftist party Syriza, whose name is an acronym for “radical coalition of the Left,” has won 149 out of 300 seats in the Greek parliament, which means it will need to form a coalition with another party, such as KKE, the Greek communist party, in order to take power.
Syriza’s policies are mainly centered around ending the austerity measures placed onto the Greek people by the Troika, or the EU, European Central Bank, and the IMF. Renegotiating the Greek debt is another focus.
When the Troika gave Greece about 240 billion euros in bailouts to help offset its debt to Europe, it also forced them to implement harsher economic policies (austerity measures).
These policies have shrunk the economy by 25 percent, increasing youth unemployment to about 50 percent and general unemployment to 30 percent. Commerce has shrunk by 50- 75 percent, according to different sources.
When interviewed by Al Jazeera, Maria Tintisi explained the crisis: “Who would ever have thought that the day would come when Greeks would not be able to afford olives? But it has.”
The country has also seen an increased suicide rate, which may be explained as a result of the austerity measures.
Greek voters placed a leftist party in power not only because the Left had a historically powerful following among the Greek people (when resisting Nazi occupation during WWII, for example), but also because they genuinely believe in the power of Syriza to change their conditions. Syriza is promising 300,000 jobs as well as food and electricity subsidies to 300,000 families under the poverty line, forming tighter relations with Russia as opposed to the EU and of course, writing off the debt.
In order to do so, Syriza is calling for a European Debt Conference, like the one that happened for Germany, to write it off. Focus is also on making Germany pay reparations for WWII, and to repay a loan that Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to pay during the Nazi occupation of Greece.
Many are uncertain about Greece’s, and the Eurozone’s, future. Although Greek people support the end of austerity, there is confusion as to how exactly to end the policies of the troika without Greece’s withdrawal from the Eurozone (and perhaps the subsequent domino effect on other European states). Syriza never ran on ideals of leaving “Europe”, however. The idea of writing off the debt and challenging the Troika has startled many, whose reactions have usually been to blatantly oppose the idea. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble stated that these new elections change nothing with regards to the “accords struck with the Greek government.”
Other European leaders have also expressed concern over Syriza’s victory. David Cameron tweeted, despite the fact that austerity measures have increased suicide rates in his own country too, that “the Greek Election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe”, valuing the economic security of a continent that has constantly dispossessed the Balkan states over the actual livelihoods and hopes of the Greek people.
Greece’s problems do not end here, although this is a momentous step towards progress. As Olga Balaoura, a Syriza member, stated on election night: “Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow we continue struggling for our lives.”