Is Syriza ready to govern?

The polls favorite Syriza to win parliamentary elections in Greece.

Questions:

1. To what extent is Syriza ready and capable to govern in your opinion?

2. Would you say if Syriza wins it could be a boost for similar European parties, maybe especially for Pomedos in Spain, but perhaps also for eurosceptics?

Answers:

Theofanis ExadaktylosLecturer in European Politics, Department of Politics, University of Surrey

1. Syriza does not have the experience of government. Even more Syriza, if elected, will have to steer the country through a very tough period that will require  extremely careful handling in terms of the country’s obligations to the EU and of course the recovery of the economy. The program Syriza is proposing is based on left-wing policies, but it has made some serious U-turns on key issues. In fact, on many occasions Syriza has not shared a detailed program of how it will handle things like social welfare, privatization and investment, the national health system or education. These remain highly abstract and theoretical to a degree that we cannot really say whether Syriza is capable of governing. It most likely that Syriza will request a bit of a time credit to get its new ministers up and ready but the time given will not be enough: they will have to get on with their jobs from day 1. In my opinion, therefore, Syriza appears ready: it has had shadow ministers for a few months now and has some very capable advisors. Now, whether it will be capable to govern remains to be seen. This is why, in my opinion, the show will run as it was in the first couple of months until they manage to get their act together and start putting forward some of their policies.

2. If Syriza wins it will be a boost for similar European parties like Podemos, but in my opinion it will not cause a political earthquake as some analysts argue. It will definitely have an effect on the way other similar European parties run their campaigns if it is successful in negotiating the bailout terms and if it is successful in bringing the country out of the financial problems it has been facing. Since Syriza has made a U-turn on the participation of Greece in the EU, I am not sure whether it will have a similar effect on Eurosceptic parties. We did see Marine Le Pen endorsing Syriza’s campaign, but generally speaking Syriza would not want to be associated with non-progressive parties.

Alexander KazamiasSenior Lecturer in Politics, Coventry University

If we allow for a brief adjustment period, Syriza is certainly capable of governing Greece better than the incumbent coalition. One of their senior economists, Yannis Dragasakis, who is likely to take the Finance portfolio, has served as a minister in 1989-90. Other party members, like Yannis Varoufakis, have been advisers to former prime minister George Papandreou. Moreover, since 2012, Tsipras himself has proved extremely able in his new role as main opposition leader. In addition, his recent experience as the European Left’s candidate for the Commission presidency has given him greater confidence and a clearer understanding of policy issues. Indeed, during this election campaign he gave long interviews to journalists and audiences consisting mainly of opponents and has shown an impressive grasp of detail and technical questions of public administration. Finally, it is worth noting that Syriza is the first Greek opposition party which has published a comprehensive costed government programme ahead of an election, the so-called ‘Thessaloniki Programme’ of last September. New Democracy has not done anything remotely similar, while no other opposition party, including Syriza itself, has done so in the past. Compared to its opponents and despite several unfortunate incidents, Syriza has conducted one of the most professional election campaigns the country has seen. Consequently, there is no question of whether the party can govern. The issue is whether it can achieve the ambitious targets set out in its programme. But that is clearly a different discussion.

2. A victory for Syriza would marginally improve the chances of similar parties across Europe, but will not be in itself a major driver. However, what would be far more decisive is if Tsipras succeeds in delivering on his big promise to abolish the Memorandum and replace it with his own domestic anti-austerity economic programme without forcing any reprisals from the EU. If, in addition, he manages to obtain a negotiation and secure even a modest write down of the Greek debt, he will be hailed as a hero not only for the Greeks and the international left, but also for the entire European South.

With regard to the enemies of the EU (I would not call the FN or UKIP Eurosceptics), a Syriza victory cannot have a positive effect. This week, Mrs Le Pen tried to exploit the prospect of Syriza’s victory as a vindication of her own agenda. However, I seriously doubt that such populist tricks could work. Now Syriza’s leaders are too busy with the election campaign to deal with Mrs Le Pen, but if she persists in pretending to support them, I believe Tsipras will put an end to this farce with a strong statement stressing that, unlike her, he holds no reciprocal feelings towards her racist party. However, in addition to being anti-racist and anti-far right, Syriza is also a Europeanist force and shares nothing with the anti-EU and/or Eurosceptical voices from France, Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark. It is crucial to understand that its opposition to the policies of the European Council and Mrs Merkel in particular is driven by an anti-austerity agenda, not by a nationalist outlook. In contrast to the anti-EU/Eurosceptical camp, who want the Eurozone destroyed, Tsipras is calling for a different economic policy in order to rescue the Eurozone. I therefore trust that the anti-EU camp will soon realise that Syriza is not a potential ally, but their nemesis, and will eventually turn against it. Meanwhile, though, they will gain nothing from its victory.

Eirini KaramouziLecturer in Contemporary History, University of Sheffield

1. No one, and despite the flurry of commentatory out there, can really predict what SYRIZA will do when its electoral programme is brought to the test. SYRIZA has purposely left very vague the way it is going to implement its ambitious goals especially in the case the Europeans turned them down. A significant number of its voters hope that the party ultimately will do a u-turn However, Syriza’s worst enemy is itself: it’s a coalition of 13 different leftist groupings. Its leader is fairly moderate but the question is how he will reconcile all these different elements, when things get real.

2. It will definitely be a test for all involved, it will test the resilience of the pro-austerity policy emanating from the troika, as well as the strength and the ability of anti-austerity, anti-establishment party, once in government to survive in such a context. All eyes will be on Greece, and everyone will be drowning their own lessons

Dimitris Tsarouhas Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Bilkent University

1. SYRIZA has not been tried and tested: it is a party with no record in government and predictions as to whether it can do so effectively are very risky indeed. What is certain is that it will face an uphill struggle in the Council if it seeks to implement word by word its pre-election pledges. I doubt it will do so.

2. A potential SYRIZA victory would be a boost for all political powers in disagreement with the current economic policy direction in the EU. This would mostly benefit parties such as PODEMOS and Sinn Fein – but may also boost Eurosceptics and the far-right who lose no opportunity to condemn the “Brussels establishment”. To be sure, this is merely a by-effect: SYRIZA is a far from parties such as LePen’s Front National as any democratic party can be.

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