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Greek leftist Syriza party suffers wave of resignations

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Nine members of parliament quit Greece’s leftwing opposition party Syriza on Thursday, signalling a possible break-up of the party whose meteoric rise amid the eurozone crisis sent shockwaves through Europe.

The lawmakers resigned in protest against party leader Stefanos Kasselakis, a 35-year-old political novice who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, made a shipping fortune, and until recently lived in Miami.

In a letter to the Syriza secretariat, the group criticised Kasselakis for “acting undemocratically” and said his message was “a jumble of contradictory opinions without any depth”.

The departures mark the second split within the party in recent weeks, after two other lawmakers, including former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, resigned from Syriza this month.

Syriza, which has roots in communist and anti-capitalist movements, was previously led by Alexis Tsipras, a former leftwing firebrand who served as a relatively centrist prime minister during Syriza’s sole stint in government from 2015 to 2019.

The rebellion is part of an identity crisis facing the party that rose to power in defiance against EU-imposed austerity. Greece, a former eurozone problem child, is now one of the best economic performers in the group.

Kasselakis was elected in September to try to reverse a collapse in Syriza’s support. The party lost the parliamentary elections in June by a margin of more than 22 per cent to the ruling centre-right New Democracy party — despite a cost of living crisis that typically benefits the opposition.

More recent opinion polls showed that Syriza had dropped further, losing its second place to centre-left Pasok.

The latest group to depart was led by Effie Achtsioglou, a former labour minister who lost the leadership race to Kasselakis. The total number of resignations now stands at 11, reducing the seats held by Syriza from 47 to 36 in the 300-member parliament.

“It is difficult to respond to the first split in the history of the left . . . outside of party processes, without a political dispute and without any substantial disagreement,” said Syriza in an announcement on Thursday, following the resignation of its members.

The lawmakers who quit Syriza have the numbers to form a separate parliamentary group and could launch a new party ahead of the European parliament elections next year, said analysts.

Tsipras, known as the man who almost took his country out of the euro, stepped down as party leader after the June polls.

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