ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s main left-wing opposition party, Syriza, suffered a damaging setback Thursday when nine lawmakers quit the party in protest against its newly elected leadership.

Miami-based businessman Stefanos Kasselakis, 35, stunned party veterans when he won the leadership in late September in a primary-style contest. But he has failed so far to halt the party’s decline in popularity in the wake of a crushing general election defeat in June.

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Syriza has since dropped to third place behind Socialist opponents in opinion polls, boosting the dominance of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative government.

On Thursday, Effie Achtsioglou, a former Syriza labor minister, led the walkout as nine lawmakers declared themselves independent.

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Once Greeces ruling party, leftist Syriza is suffering from dissension in the ranks. (Fox News)

They joined the former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos and another colleague who quit on Nov. 11 – reducing the number of seats held by Syriza in the election from 47 to 36 in the 300-member parliament.

Critics of the new leader have described him as intolerant of dissent and unable to reach a policy consensus in the historically fractured party.

Under the charismatic former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s was transformed from a small political organization to a governing party during a major financial crisis in the previous decade that brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy.

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Tsipras, who led the country between 2015 and 2019, railed against harsh policies imposed by international bailout lenders but fell out of favor with voters as the country climbed out of recession.

He resigned following his third successive general election defeat.

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