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Alexis Tsipras: 'On May 25, Europe will turn left'

April 26, 2014 -- EsquerdaNet -- Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in Greece and of the Party of the European Left's campaign in the May 25 European Parliament elections, spoke in Portugal with the Left Bloc.

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Alexis Tsipras uses EU campaign to connect with voters in Greece

By Kerin Hope in Athens

Financial Times, May 16, 2014

Alexis Tsipras, the leftwing Greek political leader, may be a long-shot to become the next president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. But Mr Tsipras is using his position as the candidate for a pan-European group of leftist political parties to boost his electoral fortunes at home.

The latest example came on Thursday night, in a live television debate in Brussels, when the 39-year-old radical castigated his front-running rivals – Jean-Claude Juncker, former chairman of the eurogroup, and Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament – for backing the “catastrophic policies of austerity” he blames for plunging Greece into its worst-ever recession.

Mr Tsipras’ combative performance, streamed live to leftwing Greek websites and broadcast on state television, is bolstering confidence within Mr Tsipras’ Syriza party that it can prevail in Greece in next week’s election to the European parliament.

After months of running neck-and-neck with the centre-right New Democracy party, led by premier Antonis Samaras, several polls published this week showed Syriza increasing its lead to around 2 percentage points. One nationwide poll showed a gap of more than three percentage points, confirming the party’s own polling results, a Syriza official said.

“There was a lot of apathy at the beginning but the campaign’s picking up momentum as we head into the last week. The anger level is rising again,“ a Syriza official said.

With a promise to tear up Greece’s deeply unpopular international bailout, Mr Tsipras shocked the establishment two years ago by nearly capturing national elections. Ever since, he has loomed a continuing threat to Mr Samaras’ teetering coalition government, and the pro-EU consensus it represents.

Mr Samaras has been pointing to a long-awaited economic recovery in what was the epicentre of the eurozone crisis. First-quarter output figures announced this week showed negative annual growth of just 1.1 per cent, the best quarterly outcome in more than five years. Some officials already suggest that growth this year could reach 1 per cent and outperform the official target of 0.6 per cent.

But to many voters, those numbers still seem abstract. “We’re deep in a social crisis because of high unemployment and a huge drop in household incomes, so the overall mood is one of depression,“ said Makis Andronopoulos, an author and Greek political commentator.

Syriza stumbled out of the gate as prominent party members made clear in recent weeks they were still committed to controversial policies that Mr Tsipras has disavowed as he tries to pull the party towards the centre and increase its appeal to despondent socialist voters.

Panayotis Lafazanis, a former hardline communist and outspoken leader of the party’s radical faction, once again voiced doubts about Greece’s continued membership of the eurozone – even though Greeks remain firmly committed to the single currency.

More worrying may have been Manolis Glezos, a 92-year-old hero of the resistance against the Nazi occupation in the second world war. Mr Glezos, who leads the Syriza ticket for the European elections, last month said that private bank deposits would suffer a “haircut” as part of a mandatory loan by Greek citizens to the government if Syriza comes to power.

While Mr Tsipras has bounced back from those gaffes, he is still expecting a hit from another political upstart: To Potami, or “River.” The new party is contesting third place in opinion polls with the far-right Golden Dawn, say pollsters. Its founder and leader, Stavros Theodorakis, is a newcomer to politics but already has a strong personal following as a television journalist with a social conscience.

Even if Syriza triumphs in the European elections, many analysts believe it is unlikely to win by a large enough margin to threaten the coalition government’s survival. Mr Samaras still ranks much higher when voters are asked to name the “most suitable premier”.

“A win for Syriza is bound to increase political instability,” Mr Andronopoulos said. “But the real question after the elections is whether defeat means the coalition will implode.”

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