Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Tsipras launches risky election campaign

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras aims at absolute majority on 20 September. (Photo: European Left)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras launched his election campaign with a TV interview on Wednesday (26 August), with president Prokopis Pavlopoulos expected to dissolve parliament on Friday and call a general election on 20 September.

Faced with deep divisions in his Syriza party, Tsipras defended his resignation and the bailout deal reached earlier this month.

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"I feel comfortable giving people a reason to judge me for all those things I accomplished and those I didn’t,” he told Alpha TV.

He said he fought as hard as he could to defend Greece's interests in talks with its lenders, the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The No to a bad deal, I turned it into a Yes to a deal which has problems, but provides potential," he said, adding that the bailout agreed on 11 August gives Greece "fiscal space to repay the debt".

Tsipras replied to his leftist critics by saying a euro exit to the drachma was not an attractive option. “The battle must be fought within Europe," he said.

The prime minister also said he would not govern with opposition parties after the upcoming election.

"I will not become prime minister in a coalition government" with the conservative New Democracy, the socialist Pasok, or the center-left To Potami, he said.

"I think that all three parties essentially express the old political system."

He did not exclude altogether the possibility of a national unity government, but he said he would not lead it.

Tsipras, who resigned in the wake of the agreement with Greece's lenders for a €86 billion bailout, is looking for a fresh mandate from Greek voters with an absolute majority.

Split

A recent opinion poll showed that 61 percent of Greeks hold a positive opinion of Tsipras. 


But this personal popularity could prove difficult to translate into a majority for Syriza.

The party is faced with the creation of a dissident party, Popular Unity, led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis.

Fifty-three of the 201 members of Syriza's central committee resigned on Wednesday. Many of them have joined Popular Unity.

In a letter, they said they could not support the memorandum of understanding signed by Tsipras' government with the lenders in exchange for the bailout funds.

"Tsipras gave up all the substantive and fundamental programmatic commitments of Syriza," Panagiotis Lafazanis, one of the Syriza rebels, told CNBC TV channel.

"Popular Unity wants to continue the best programmatic traditions of Syriza. We want to stick to more radical commitments."

Tsipras is also under attack by the parliament's speaker, Zoe Konstantopoulou, who could also set up her own party.

Konstantopoulou voted against the bailout agreement and accused Tsipras of calling snap elections "on the sly".

Tsipras' office reacted last week saying she was "acting like a dictator" and was "the wrong choice" for the speaker post.

If she launches her own party, which she said would work closely with Lafazanis' Popular Unity, Konstantopoulou could be supported by Syriza figure Manolis Glezos.

Glezos, who is 91, is highly respected in Greece as the man who took down the Nazi flag from the Acropolis in 1941.

Varoufakis

Though he does not plan to run for the election, Tsipras' former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is another critical voice in the campaign.

Varoufakis, who voted no to the bailout, accuses Tsipras of reneging on his previous commitments.

"The party that I served and the leader that I served has decided to change course completely and to espouse an economic policy that makes absolutely no sense, which was imposed upon us", Varoufakis told US ABC TV channel.

Varoufakis now wants to foster a European network against austerity.

In his TV interview on Wednesday, Tsipras said that although Varoufakis gave momentum to negotiations with the lenders, he "had lost his credibility with his interlocutors".

At a meeting with EU, ECB and IMF leaders on 25 June, Tsipras said, Varoufakis "was talking and they paid no attention to him. They had switched off," Tsipras said.

Greek deal puts Tsipras in straitjacket

The 29-page document agreed with Greece's creditors outlines wide-ranging reforms of the Greek economy and administration with tight deadlines and fiscal targets.

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