The radical left on the cusp of power in Greece – The view from Hungary

In Hungary, political philosopher and public thinker Gáspár Miklós Tamás is the only prominent essayist to write quite flatteringly of Alexis Tsipras,  the hard-left firebrand who will likely become Greece’s prime minister-elect this Sunday. On Thursday, Mr. Tamás demonstrated in Budapest, in front of Greece’s embassy, in support of Syriza, otherwise known as the “Coalition of the Radical Left.”

“Hungary’s Left Party (Balpárt) expresses solidarity with the Greek people, who have been robbed and afflicted by austerity measures. We support the Syriza party, which is capable of replacing the corrupt political elite and can say ‘no’ to the forces of the international financial markets, to the European Commission, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to the European Central Bank”–read the statement of Hungary Balpárt. Mr. Tamás also had some sharp words for the mainstream Hungarian centre-left opposition and for its continued enthusiasm for Ms. Merkel. Mr. Tamás noted that the German chancellor is known for her total lack of vision, lack of creativity and her support of the status quo. Yet the Hungarian mainstream left sees her as some sort of kindly, stable old aunt, mainly because the Hungarian centre left also lacks vision and courage–according to Mr. Tamás’ assessment.

Balpárt and Syriza. Two far-left parties.

Balpárt and Syriza. Two far-left parties.

Syriza has led its main, centre-right rival–Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy party–in every poll published so far this year. The most recent opinion poll, released by Vergina TV the day before the election, puts Syriza at just over 30%, while New Democracy trails at 24.6%. The overtly neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party (which actually makes Jobbik look somewhat tame on most days) comes in at 5.5%, while a new centre-left, but pro-EU party called To Potami (The River) polls at 5%. The Gree Communist Party (KKE) will likely pass the threshold for parliamentary representation with 4% of the vote. Syriza would need to garner around 38% of the vote to win a majority in the legislature. Failing this, it will most likely form a coalition with To Potami, which is expected to soften the radical’s left’s image and  tone down some of the anti-austerity and anti-euro rhetoric. The other option is a possible coalition with the hard-line communists of the KKE, but this historic far-left party doesn’t seem to have an appetite to join Syriza in government.

A piece in Newsweek explores why Syriza is likely to either moderate its stance on austerity and is very likely to distance itself from any notion that it aims to pull Greece out of the euro, in order to reintroduce the Drachma. According to the piece, Syriza may be pulled apart by a leadership that is moderating its message and by a loud, far-left activist base, which wants out of the euro. Mr. Tsipras has already started to change his tone. While he claims that a vote for Syriza will finally end Greece’s “national humiliation” at the hands of Ms. Merkel and the European Commission, he also addressed a letter to “German taxpayers,” which was much softer in tone. He will have some tough negotiations ahead with the so-called Troika, and he may face rebellion within his party at home, including from the likes of politician Rachil Makri, who wants a new Syriza government to unilaterally print €100 billion, in order to maintain the country’s liquidity after it rejects austerity measures.

Hungary’s radical left–which is still very small and on the fringes of both the political scene and in terms of media exposure–used the impending Syriza victory in Athens to send a message to both Europe and to the Hungarian centre-left opposition.

What starts in Greece now could change the whole Europe! The neo-liberal era could end soon, which pushed our societies into social and financial crisis, thanks to the regular urge for constraints. The Hungarian political elite ignores what happens in Greece. The government and the opposition parties are against change in Europe. In Hungary, a lot of people believe in Mrs Merkel and in her politics, who encouraged mostly the continuous Greek constraints”–noted the activists of Hungary’s Balpárt.

Of the “mainstream” Hungarian left’s politicians, only András Schiffer, the leader of the Politics Can Be Different (LMP) green party, attended the radical left-wing protest. One wonders if Mr. Schiffer will realize his long-standing goal of uniting the Hungarian radical left into one camp, in order to change the landscape in the opposition….much like what Mr. Tsipras did in Greece.

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