Greece’s main opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras is fending off criticism that he would take Greece out of the eurozone if he were to come to power, as he tries to keep the reins on his divided party.
Facing critical elections this month for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, Tsipras, who’s been a harsh critic of austerity measures being imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders, said his aim is to “save the country in the euro,” a position on which he has vacillated.
Tsipras was forced to clarify the party’s position after comments by veteran MP Manolis Glezos indicated that SYRIZA might consider a return to the drachma. In an interview with Alpha TV, Tsipras ruled this out. “There is no issue with the euro,” he said. Glezos, a 92-year-old WWII hero, last year had earlier dented Tsipiras when he said that SYRIZA didn’t have a clue what to do about the economy.
SYRIZA and the ruling New Democracy conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras have been dueling for the lead in polls, with voters split between who they want for local offices and the European Parliament.
Tspiras was apparently hoping to stem the fears of some voters that if he ever came to power he would take Greece out of the euro. He has already said he would revise the terms of 240 billion euros ($330.7 billion) in two bailouts with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or renege outright.
He also tried to clear up more confusion in the party that had trouble fielding a list of candidates for the elections, with infighting over a number of key policy issues. SYRIZA is a motley collection of Maoists, Trotskyites, Communists, Stalinists, ecologists and others.
SYRIZA’s economic spokesman, Yiannis Dragasakis had indicated the party might let voters decide in a referendum what they wanted to do about the drachma vs. euro dilemma but Tsipiras said that would be a method for other issues.
“Referendums are part of our strategy,” said Tsipras. “This is because we will have nothing else to lean on but the constant renewal of support from voters.”
The battle is already on for the May 18 local elections, which come a week before ballots are cast for the European Parliament. SYRIZA has pumped out ads stating: “We vote and they go”, to emphasize the party wants the vote on EU lawmakers to act as a referendum on whether the coalition government should remain in power.
The campaign’s second phase will focus on a more positive message, namely SYRIZA’s attempt to provide an alternative to the coalition’s austerity program. The party’s campaign is being devised by Athens-based strategy consultancy Cleverbank, which has worked with PASOK in the past.
New Democracy is reportedly using The Newtons Laboratory, which drew up its campaign for the 2012 national elections. Samaras is expected to feature heavily and the emphasis will be on the government’s achievements so far.
A poll by MRB shows that 55 percent of Greeks doubt SYRIZA has the ability to ensure economic stability.