More modest Syriza for moderate voters?

Poll shows Syriza’s lead over conservatives widening slightly, but New Democracy still believes they can gain votes.

Questions:

1. Lets say SYRIZA will govern Greece. What you expect from them in foreign policy area, especially towards Russia-Ukraine conflict?

2. I might be wrong, but seems to me SYRIZA has some radical ideas (or people who are talking about those ideas) , but they also try to woo more moderate voters. How this work for SYRIZA in the campaign?

Answers:

Roman GerodimosSenior Lecturer in Global Current Affairs, The Media School, Bournemouth University

Foreign policy is one of those areas that hasn’t been discussed at all in the campaign and even before that, during the last few months and years, as the political system has focused almost exclusively on the austerity measures and the bail-out programme (Memorandum). Syriza has not presented a clear plan in the foreign policy field but based on their rhetoric so far my sense is that they wouldn’t necessarily take a vocal stance in favour of one side or the other. They might be more favourable to Russia, as is the case with some of the left-wing parties across the EU, but if they came out against Ukraine altogether that might be dangerous for them as the Greek people are very passionate about the principle of state sovereignty.

2. This is actually the main topic of debate in Greece at the moment. A lot of Syriza politicians have made – and, to this day, continue to make – radical and occasionally absurd statements about Greece’s stance towards its lenders, the Troika, the international markets etc. Just a couple of days ago, a populist politician who just moved to Syriza from the far-right Independent Greeks party (Rachel Makri) stated that the Bank of Greece could unilaterally delete 100 billion euros of Greece’s own debt. This obviously caused a lot of controversy and the government used it to show how unreliable Syriza is. However, an increasing number of people believe that Mr Tsipras won’t really follow through with all that rhetoric and pledges and that he will water down his demands once he’s faced with the realities of the negotiations and government. This is perhaps the single most important reason why Syriza has maintained its lead and looks set to win the election. In his recent speeches Mr Tsipras has been much more modest about his claims and pledges, so it’s quite clear that he’s creating the space and conditions for potential U-turns if the circumstances require him to do so.

George KyrisLecturer in International and European Politics, University of Birmingham

Syriza has changed a lot over the past few years, mainly as a result of their effort to promote the image of a party able to govern and attract more moderate voters.

For a start, Syriza now promotes itself as a very pro-EU party- albeit with an alternative vision for Europe- and does not negotiate the place of Greece in the Eurozone. At the same time, Syriza is reportedly developing links to many European elites in an effort to build its own alliances. All these mark an important departure for a party that few years earlier was much more isolated and included members who did not see Grexit as a taboo.

But in more peripheral to the EU issues, Syriza seems to adopt a more moderate position and adjust its behaviour in order to appeal to voters beyond its traditional base. For example, the party seems to engage more with religious aspects of Greek political life (the president attending religious services being the most obvious example). This is again a big departure for Syriza, which has been historically characterised by a very secular profile and agenda.

In the Ukraine crisis, Syriza has supported a diplomatic solution and has stood firmly against US/NATO interference and militarisation of the response. Not too dissimilarly to their rhetoric about the Eurozone crisis, Syriza suggests Greece should play a leading role and form an alliance with other southern European countries towards resolving the crisis and restoring constructive relations with Russia.

In all these, the big question is how Syriza will be the day after the election results. Promoting a more moderate profile in order to secure more votes is certainly a strategy well thought. But what is even interesting to see is whether a post-election Syriza will stay ‘middle of the road’ or push with a more radical agenda, as its earlier profile as a party might suggest.

Kostas Lavdas, Professor of Hellenic and European Studies, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

Greek politics used to be polarized and confrontational – recent attempts to overcome polarization appear to be failing as the short electoral period up to the January 25 election was full of intense and heated exchanges between the two main contenders, governing ND and opposition SYRIZA. Like Podemos in Spain, SYRIZA aims to project a radical, left-wing alternative, but there are serious questions regarding the party program’s coherence, consistency, and numbers (people have often remarked that they don’t add up). Greek electorate being fed up with years of strict economic policies and relentless austerity, with unemployment still very high, a turn to the Left seems likely but the victory for SYRIZA if indeed it materializes will probably be marginal. Hence if they govern they’ll probably do it in the context of a coalition government with either POTAMI or PASOK, which will moderate some of their views. Hopefully that will apply to Greece’s NATO commitments too.

According to the Constitution, after the election there will be three (3) consecutive attempts by the president of the Republic to form a government (inviting the leaders of the first, second, and third party based on election results) and if all fail, there will be another election sometime in February. EU institutions and other member states will probably keep intervening with statements at various points, but there is a thin line that cannot be crossed: a statement or a move that may appear heavy-handed may well backfire.

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