ATHENS – New Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras may be getting a hammering from critics for largely capitulating to international lenders he said he would stand up to, but a strong majority of Greeks are glad he at least tried.
A Metron Analysis poll in the newspaper Parapolitika newspaper found more than two in three people satisfied with the way his coalition, which includes the Independent Greeks (ANEL) is negotiating with the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
Even though the lenders – led by Germany, the biggest contributor to 240 billion euros ($272 billion) in two bailouts since 2010 – forced Tsipras to accept an extension to the deal and to back off promises to reverse austerity, he got a 76 percent approval rating.
SYRIZA received 47.6 percent backing, compared to the near 36 percent it won in the Jan. 25 elections, ousting the New Democracy Conservatives, who now have 20.7 percent support, a big comedown from its 2012 election victory.
But there could be trouble ahead, with reports that Greece will run out of cash in mid-March unless it reaches an agreement with the troika over unfinished reforms that Tsipras vowed he would never sign.
Tax revenues fell more than one billion euros in January and unless the government accedes to the lenders, a 7.2-billion euro installment Tsipras said he would reject but now wants, won’t be disbursed, leaving the government without enough money to pay salaries, pensions and bills.
It’s a tough spot for the new Premier who got a couple of concessions from the lenders – one to reduce the size of the primary surplus the government must run to 1.5 percent, perhaps freeing some money for social benefits – and the other to let his Administration write the reforms it wants to impose: subject to the approval of the troika, which Greece now calls The Institutions.
Tsipras also doused reports that Greece would need a third bailout in June when the extension runs out and vowed he would oppose that the same way he opposed re-signing with the lenders, which he wound up doing anyway.
“Some have bet on a third bailout, on the possibility of a third bailout in June. I’m very sorry but once again we will disappoint them,” he said in a televised speech to his cabinet.
“Let them forget a third bailout. The Greek people put an end to bailouts with their vote,” he said, adding that he would renew his fight for debt relief, which was rejected out of hand by the lenders who show no sign of relenting.
FREE POWER FOR THE POOR
Tsipras said his government now will bring to Parliament his plans but that he may not allow the lawmakers to vote on the extension and sign it without them because of growing dissent in his own party that he had backed down from the lenders and reneged on most of his campaign promises.
The prime minister said that the first bill would introduce measures aimed at tackling the “humanitarian crisis,” including the provision of free electricity to 300,000 households living under the poverty threshold. “Our first task is to assist a society that has been suffering for the past five years,” said Tsipras.
The second bill would let taxpayers who owe the state up to 100 installments, which the lenders don’t want, and that anyone owing up to 50,000 euros can’t be arrested because they haven’t paid.
The third draft law will protect primary residences with a taxable value of up to 300,000 euros from foreclosures. Finally, the government also intends to introduce legislation next week that would pave the way for public broadcaster ERT, shut down in June 2013, to be reopened. Tsipras stressed that this would not burden the public budget.
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