ATHENS – With Greece going broke, resistance to the demands of international lenders remains strong in the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Tsipras led a deep-into-the-night meeting of his Cabinet to give them a report on the slow progress with the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is holding back a 7.2-billion ($8 billion) installment from what’s left of 240 billion euros ($260 billion) in two bailouts that began in 2010.
The lenders won’t release the money until Tsipras, who campaigned against austerity measures, imposes more of them but he’s digging in his heels on cutting pensions and still wants to restore collective bargaining for workers who were stripped of it by previous governments dominated by the New Democracy Conservatives and now-marginal PASOK Socialists.
The stand-off has split SYRIZA, already a loose collection of Anarchists, Communists and fringe elements, with one camp reluctantly saying a compromise is all that can save Greece while the hardliners want no backtracking even if it means default and an exit from the Eurozone.
The meeting was reportedly aimed at reviewing changes to the tax system and privatizations which Tsipras had vowed to also reject but now wants as state coffers empty fast.
Officials also discussed the possible timing for drafting some of these changes into legislation in a bid to show good will and convince the ECH to relax liquidity restrictions on Greece and keep propping up the beleaguered banks, Kathimerini said.
Speaking in Parliament, Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis, who heads SYRIZA’s radical Left Platform, said, “This government will not surrender,” noting that “those who believe we will step back from our red lines are deluding themselves.”
He was referring to SYRIZA’s pre-election pledges to protect pensions and the rights of workers. Lafazanis has defied Tsipras and said he would refuse to go along with privatizations.
Another senior member of the Left Platform was widely quoted in the media as saying that Greece will be unable to reach a deal with creditors this month as the latter “keep yanking our chain” and that Greece might be forced to “go it alone.”
Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis though said SYRIZA had to bend, if not break. “We are working toward an honorable compromise,” he told Mega TV. “Immediate recourse to a referendum or elections is not in our plans right now.”
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis caused another stir when he said SYRIZA might be out of power by next January, comments he said were blown out of proportion.
The flap now has grown with SYRIZA officials saying that Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras is undermining the coalition government, which includes the far right-wing Independent Greeks who have been largely silent.
The honorary chairman of conservative New Democracy, former Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis, said that Stournaras, who was Finance Minister for then-Premier and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, was being wrongly accused.
He said that Stournaras can be accused of “not informing politicians and the Greek people about the huge burdens that taxpayers are being burdened with… and of the dire state of the Greek economy, but he cannot be accused of the opposite,” he said.
Mitsotakis was apparently responding to media reports according to which a close aide of Stournaras sent an e-mail to some journalists indicating the economy is far worse off than the public is being told.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the ECB is fretting over the a deteriorating relationship between the Greek government and the country’s central bank with Stournaras under attack for his characterization of the economy.