Deep rift opens in leftist coalition

Despite his solid re-election victory on Sunday as the leader of Synaspismos, the main grouping in Greece’s fifth-largest party, the Coalition of the Radical Left, Alexis Tsipras faces a battle to keep the leftists together after one wing of his party walked out. The so-called «renewal wing» of Synaspismos, consisting of 326 members, walked out of the party conference in Athens on Sunday in protest at Tsipras’s refusal to consider their request that Synaspismos extricate itself from the SYRIZA coalition and stand alone as a party. Following the walkout, Tsipras was re-elected with almost 80 percent of some 1,000 votes cast. The future of the party, however, is in serious doubt. The renewal wing, led by former Justice Minister Fotis Kouvelis, has been at odds with Tsipras for the last couple of years, disagreeing with his stance during the December 2008 riots and the 2009 general election campaign, which some in the party felt was far too leftist and detached from reality and which led to SYRIZA’s share of the vote falling from 5.04 percent to 4.60 and the number of its MPs being reduced from 14 to 13. Kouvelis announced on Skai TV yesterday morning that he would no longer be representing SYRIZA in Parliament but would stand as a Synaspismos MP. He said that his party’s participation in the wider leftist coalition had led to its core values being compromised. Kouvelis said that there was no room for the decision to be reversed since Tsipras wanted Synaspismos to be even more heavily involved in SYRIZA rather than pushing its own political agenda. He also denied that the renewal wing was in talks with any party or politicians from another part of the political spectrum but said that discussions were taking place in an effort to ensure that his leftist grouping has a greater impact on the political scene. Sources said yesterday that Tsipras intends to make an attempt to speak to Kouvelis and other members of the renewal wing this week in a bid to make them reconsider their decision.