‘Headless’ SYRIZA braces for polls

As political commentators argued over the weekend about the comparative leadership qualities of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the head of the main opposition PASOK, George Papandreou, the country’s fourth largest parliamentary party by last night had yet to determine who would lead it in snap polls next month. In a clear sign that the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was far from extricating itself from a deepening internal crisis, the leader of the coalition’s main party Synaspismos, Alexis Tsipras, proposed yesterday that SYRIZA go to elections without a leader. According to his proposal, approved by Synaspismos’s central political committee despite vehement opposition from veteran deputy Fotis Kouvelis and others, all candidates for parliament would have equal status on the ballot paper. Tsipras stressed to his cadres the need to strive for unity and said he would «rather lead the struggle than the party.» Last week Tsipras acknowledged his «deep political differences» with Alekos Alavanos, the head of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, who supported the 34-year-old in his candidacy for Athens mayor in 2006 and then backed his takeover at the helm of Synaspismos. Over the past year or so, SYRIZA’s opinion poll ratings have plummeted, a development which has partly been linked to growing divisions within the coalition as well as an equivocal stance during the riots in Athens last December.