Leftists face crisis after Alavanos walkout

The political secretariat of Synaspismos Left Coalition, the mainstay of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which is Greece’s fourth-largest parliamentary party, attempted yesterday to convince former leader Alekos Alavanos not to step down in the hope of avoiding deep rifts in the party. Alavanos, who led Synaspismos between 2004 and 2008 and is currently the head of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, declared his intention to resign on Wednesday but officials of the leftist party tried to dissuade him during a high-level meeting yesterday. However, the 59-year-old was not in a mood to be talked out of quitting as it appears that his relationship with his younger successor, Alexis Tsipras, has broken down beyond all hope of repair. Alavanos had been the one to give 34-year-old Tsipras his break, allowing him to run as the party’s candidate for Athens mayor in 2006 and then backing him to take over at the helm of Synaspismos. However, in the last few months the two men have not seen eye to eye, with Tsipras pursuing a radical leftist agenda that included a decision to appoint an anti-European candidate to head his party’s list in the June 7 Euro elections. Since last year, the party’s opinion poll ratings have plummeted, particularly as a result of its equivocal stance during the December riots. Yesterday’s meeting saw the two men blaming each other for SYRIZA’s declining fortunes. Alavanos admitted that he had political differences with Tsipras but also accused him of not listening to advice. The dispute could drive a wedge between the supporters of the two men. After garnering less than 5 percent in this month’s election, any breakup of SYRIZA would probably lead to it being eliminated as a political force. Publicly, Tsipras indicated that he wanted Alavanos to stay for the good of the party. «Understanding, calm and unity must prevail because there is nobody that is surplus to requirements in our political plan,» he said.