Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tsipras, leader of the leftwing Greek party Syriza

As Greece’s election nears, the latest polls suggest Syriza, the radical leftwing party, has maintained its lead, leaving many observers to ask what a government led by Alexis Tsipras would mean for Greece and the future of the eurozone.

How many seats would Syriza need to win for an overall majority?

Syriza needs to win 151 seats for an overall majority but would require considerably more for Mr Tsipras to feel secure wielding power. A fractious coalition of diverse groups, including a hardline faction called the Left Platform, which has “agreed to disagree” with the party’s mainstream on some policy issues may make it difficult for Mr Tsipras to control key parliamentary votes.

If Syriza does not win an overall majority, what will happen?

If Syriza finishes first but falls short of an overall majority — even after receiving the front-runner’s 50-seat bonus — Mr Tsipras will try to form a coalition with one of the smaller parties. He would prefer to team up with the Greek communist party (KKE) but its Stalinist leadership has so far rejected any form of co-operation. Syriza’s most likely partner would be To Potami, (The River) a moderate centre-left party founded last year by Stavros Theodorakis, a television journalist. Another possibility would be the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) led by Evangelos Venizelos, a former foreign minister. Several senior socialist politicians have already joined Syriza’s ranks, but the Left Platform might veto an alliance because Pasok backed austerity as the junior coalition partner to the conservative New Democracy party in the outgoing government.

What would a Syriza victory mean for Greece’s bailout?

Greece’s bailout would quickly be derailed if Syriza drops austerity and carries out its campaign promise to cut taxes and increase social spending to alleviate what Mr Tsipras calls “Greece’s humanitarian crisis” without finding credible new sources of funding.

Could Greece survive without a bailout?

Not without running the risk of a default if the country runs out of cash to meet repayments on its large sovereign debt in the next few months. Greece’s current bailout programme has been prolonged until the end of February and a Syriza government would come under pressure to arrange a further extension of several months with its creditors, the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. An extension would give some breathing space for Greece to complete its economic reform programme and draw down enough bailout funding to meet its obligations in 2015. Mr Tsipras has repeatedly used the slogan “no more bailouts” throughout the election campaign in relation to Greece’s future, raising fears that unless he made a swift policy U-turn, a Syriza government would revive the possibility of a “Grexit” from the eurozone.

Why has Syriza proved more popular than New Democracy in the polls?

Greek voters are desperate to see an end to austerity after successive rounds of wage and pension cuts and tax increases over the past four-and-a-half years. They also feel resentful, according to pollsters, over New Democracy’s perceived willingness to protect large tax evaders. Meanwhile, moderate conservatives are concerned that the party has swung too far to the right, adopting hardline positions on immigration and other social issues in recent months.


What happens to Antonis Samaras if New Democracy loses the election?

Mr Samaras’s supporters argue that his successful implementation of tough reforms while keeping the coalition government together has cemented his position as New Democracy leader and prime minister. But he may be challenged if Syriza wins the election by a bigger than anticipated margin. One possible contender to succeed Mr Samaras would be Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who worked closely with bailout monitors to overhaul the bloated civil service as minister for public administration. As a member of a powerful political family — his father served as prime minister and his sister as foreign minister — Mr Mitsotakis could muster plenty of support. But he may choose to wait before trying to unseat Mr Samaras.

How will the rest of Europe view a Syriza victory?

With some anxiety: Syriza would become the first of the so-called “protest parties” that have sprung up across Europe to win power, sending a clear message of discontent over German policy in the eurozone. Other political insurgents, among them Spain’s radical Podemos and even France’s far-right National Front, would draw encouragement from a Syriza victory, even if Mr Tsipras’s avowed ambition to lead a leftist political spring in Europe seems overblown.

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