ATHENS – Greece’s anti-austerity major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said he’s not interested in working with other leaders of other protest parties in England and France who made big gains in the European Parliament elections, calling them “monstrosities.”
SYRIZA finished first among Greek parties in the EU ballot, strengthened by its resistance to big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings.
But, distancing himself from the UKIP party of Nigel Farage in England, and Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Tsipras said while SYRIZA opposes big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions too, that it is “an oasis in this desert.”
His remarks came in an interview with the Bloomberg news agency. “We are a pro-European force that wants to change Europe, not dismantle it,” Tsipras, 39, said. “Austerity has led to the creation of political monstrosities,” he said.
Voters across Europe deserted the parties that held power during the economic crisis as unemployment across the 28-nation bloc increased to a record last year.
While UKIP leader Nigel Farage and France’s nationalist leader Marine Le Pen want to roll back European powers to protect the interests of the British and the French, Tsipras said SYRIZA wants to transform the EU, not destroy it.
Tsipras, whose party bested Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives to gain the most seats from Greece, six of 21 in the European Parliament, said he would ally himself with Spain’s Podemos movement, which won five seats of the 750 in the Parliament.
He said he may also work with the Socialists, the European Parliament’s second biggest group, if they are prepared to resist budget-cut calls by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the biggest contributor to 240 billion euros ($327 billion) in two bailouts from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
She demanded, and got, brutal austerity conditions in return. “We would be open to cooperation on the condition that they will return to their political roots, and stop accepting austerity as the only option,” Tsipras said. “Not if they remain under the spell of Angela Merkel’s hegemony.”
SYRIZA has been trying to rally support in Greece too, although Samaras rejected out-of-hand a call by the Leftist leader for snap elections. The government, which includes the PASOK Socialist, is in power until 2016.
But SYRIZA could still upset the balance through the choice of Greece’s President, which needs 180 votes in the 300-member Parliament.
The coalition has only 153, but could gain three more ousted by PASOK who are considering returning, and one from the Independent Greeks, who has bolted his party.