For Immediate Release
Syriza Party Poised to Win Greek Elections on Platform of Canceling Austerity and Renegotiating Debt
WASHINGTON - The anti-austerity Syriza party leads in polls heading into Greece's national elections Sunday. Syriza says if elected it will renegotiate some of Greece's debt and halt austerity policies. Syriza also calls for a European debt conference similar to the 1953 London Conference that relieved German debt and allowed the country to extend debt payments. The 1953 accord led to such incredible economic growth for post World War II Germany that the period is referred to as the "Wirtschaftswunder" or the "economic miracle."
"It's interesting that Syriza calls for a debt conference," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the debt relief organization Jubilee USA. "It certainly worked for Germany in 1953 and can be a model for heavily indebted countries today."
Greece is the third most heavily indebted country in the world and the most heavily indebted country in Europe. It owes more than $360 billion in total debt. Current polls give Syriza a 4 to 6 percentage point lead over current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy Party.
"The Greek election is now a referendum on austerity and debt," noted LeCompte who sits on United Nations debt expert groups.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union and European Central Bank negotiated a $147 billion Greek bail out plan in 2010. The loan package included a number of austerity measures that sparked protests in Greece. From 2010 to 2015, unemployment rose from 12% to 26%, the economy contracted five years in a row and wages fell. The country's debt burden also grew. A group of economists released an open letter this week calling for the IMF and European Central Bank to cancel Greek debt and asserted that austerity is "crushing economic activity."
"In a post-financial crisis world, there's broad agreement that austerity doesn't work," explained LeCompte. "Austerity programs can be likened to kicking a patient on life support in an effort to help them recover."