ATHENS – With growing rebellion in the ranks, Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is trying to find a way to sign a four-month bailout extension he said he didn’t want without bringing it to a vote in Parliament.
Tsipras was elected on a pledge to reverse austerity and deal away with the hated Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that put up 240 billion euros ($272.5 billion) in two rescue packages but, with the banks on the verge of ruin as nervous depositors withdrew 20 billion euros, he mostly caved in and said he would deal with the institutions.
That has created widespread dissent within SYRIZA, a loose collection of Maoists, Anarchists, Trotskyites, Stalinists, Leninists and anti-Capitalists. The newspaper Kathinerini said a straw poll taken among the party’s 149 lawmakers after Tsipras met with them for 11 hours found 30 either opposed or not voting.
If that number held in a Parliamentary vote, the coalition administration, which also includes 13 MPs from the former anti-austerity Independent Greeks who have also reversed course, the bailout extension vote would fail and the government might as well with Tsipras having lost control of his lawmakers.
With so much at stake, Tsipras reportedly will wait until March 2 to make up his mind whether to bring the extension to Parliament, giving the other 18 countries in the Eurozone who must approve it time to have their parliaments vote on it as well.
The uncertainty has led Tsipras to eye some way to get around the parliament where his government has a majority to avoid the embarrassment of a humiliating defeat little more than a month after being elected and having reneged on virtually every promise he made to voters.
“My opinion is that it should be brought to Parliament but I cannot tell you what will actually happen,” Minister of State for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris told Mega TV.
He added that he would not expect more than three or four SYRIZA MPs to vote against the deal in a parliamentary ballot. The government has 162 votes and needs 151 in the 300-member body to get approval.
Tsipras also spoke on Feb. 26 at a meeting of the party’s political secretariat, where the mood was said to be less rancorous, and is due to meet with the party’s Central Committee on Feb. 27-28 to explain why he flip-flopped on campaign pledges and ask his lawmakers to do so as well.
Tsipras is now in the curious position of facing the same kind of opposition he led against austerity with the former governing coalition parties of New Democracy and PASOK mocking him for signing the same deal they did after he said he wouldn’t.
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