The leader of the country’s main opposition party, Alexis Tsipras, was on an official visit to Brussels last week when he heard the news that certain Golden Dawn deputies had not been remanded in custody during the investigation into the ultra-nationalist party that saw the arrest of the party leader and top cadres.
To many who have never supported or even flirted with the idea of SYRIZA, the level-headed way that Tsipras commented on developments here in Greece made quite an impression. Many wondered what had changed. Others thought that the SYRIZA chief had adopted this new style of rhetoric due to the seriousness of the situation. These expectations didn’t last long, however.
As soon as he was back in Athens, Tsipras recovered his usual strategy of extreme opposition and extreme rhetoric, leaving no room for misunderstanding or the belief that anything had changed with the leftist leader.
Of course, it is easy to imagine why this interlude of adopting a calm stance was so brief.
For every moderate, non-SYRIZA voter who approved of this new style, there were 10, 20 or 30 party members and passionate supporters making frantic calls to the party’s offices and demanding to know just what had gone wrong with their leader.
I suspect the same thing happens each time Tsipras timidly attempts to get closer to the moderate center of the political spectrum, when he meets with top European officials like German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble or when he kisses a Greek Orthodox priest’s cross during a school blessing ceremony out of respect.
In other words, Tsipras is a hostage both to the various factions at play within the party as well as to party officials who embrace extreme points of views.
SYRIZA grew big very rapidly and Tsipras now finds himself alongside paranoid nationalists as well as supporters of pure internationalism who believe that the revolution will kick off in Greece and can be led by such a motley crew of supporters.
So far he has been unable to keep it all together – as anyone can see. In the eventuality that he won a general election this would be his biggest problem.
Every compromise, every step closer toward moderate voters and realistic solutions would stir unbelievable reactions. Even the appeal of being in the driver’s seat would not suffice to keep the party together.