Syriza’s German Fixation?

ATHENS – The Greek people have spoken. In an historic referendum, they have decisively rejected the deal offered by their country’s creditors. Within the ruling Syriza party, however, things are not quite so straightforward.

Since coming to power in January, Syriza has struggled to balance the need to strike a deal on Greece’s debt with its campaign promise not to sign any agreement that would thrust the country deeper into recession. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s decision to urge the Greek electorate to vote “No” in the referendum on the latest offer by the country’s creditors suggests that the latter has taken precedence. Unsurprisingly, the move was met with angry derision by other eurozone leaders.

According to the Greek government, the current arrangement has not only transformed Greece into a debt colony; it threatens the dignity of the Greek people. For Tsipras, national dignity is paramount, as exemplified in his visit, mere hours after being sworn in as Prime Minister in January, to a war memorial in Kaisariani, a district of Athens, where 200 Greek citizens were executed by the Nazi occupying forces in 1944.

Some observers interpreted the visit as a flippant attempt to needle Germany, which Syriza views as the driving force behind the bailout agreements. In fact, Tsipras’s pilgrimage spoke to a long heritage of resistance within the movements making up his party – a heritage that could complicate any attempt he makes to strike a deal.