Alexis Tsipras swept into power in 2015 on a wave of anti-establishment and anti-EU sentiment following the Greek debt crisis. He was elected, alongside then-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, with a mandate to do battle with Brussels over harsh austerity measures the EU wanted to implement in Greece. However, after capitulating to pressure, Mr Tsipras lost swathes of support around the country – and subsequently, his premiership.
To add insult to injury, Mr Varoufakis’ new party, Mera25, gained nine seats in a huge symbolic victory for the insurgent left-wing force.
Syriza came into power in the midst of a huge debt crisis and subsequent pressure from the EU to accept bailout packages that would further cripple the country.
Upon being elected, he said: “Greece leaves behind catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish.”
Six months of tense negotiations with Brussels led to nothing, however, as the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank (known as the Troika) refused to give any ground.
With all options on the negotiating table – including leaving the EU – exhausted, Mr Tsipras went back to the people in June 2015 with a referendum on whether to accept the bailout.
In a resounding victory for Syriza’s official mandate, the bailout was rejected outright, with 61 percent voting no.
It caused panic within the EU, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying: “The momentum [for finding an agreement] was destroyed unilaterally by the announcement of a referendum and by the decision to mount a ‘no’ campaign to reject this agreement.”
The pressure caused Mr Tsipras to ignore the will of the people and accept the bailout package days later – causing Mr Varoufakis to resign.
Syriza’s embrace of austerity, Mr Varoufakis said today, “destroyed the soul of Syriza followers for whom the defence of the wretched of the earth was essential”.
Four further years of austerity meant evictions of struggling families, the sale of vast areas of land and sea to corporations and the stagnation of the economy.
David Adler, who sits on the coordinating collective for Diem25 – of which Mera25 is part – said: “In short, Tspiras did not simply capitulate to the Troika, or swap his radical ideals for hard-nosed realism.
“He actively refashioned his government as a rightwing force on the world stage.”
According to Greek analysts, Mr Tsipras surprised Europe with his election in 2015, but won due to his radicalism.
Now, however, according to Dr Evel Economakis, Syriza’s capitulation meant they instantly lost their status as the great hope of the people.
He said: “Many had hoped the new government in Athens would infect Europe with a democratic ethos that would wipe away the unfair trade relations between southern Europe and the stronger powers in Berlin, Brussels, and Paris.
“‘With a left like Syriza, who needs a right?’ a friend remarked to me the other day.”
Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to win the election with almost 40 percent of the vote so far, while Syriza’s share has collapsed to 31.5 percent.