Tsipras faces split in party

Under pressure from those who opposed the bailout deal, he proposes emergency meeting

Mr Alexis Tsipras (far left) attending a Syriza party central committee meeting in Athens yesterday in an attempt to settle differences among party members.
Mr Alexis Tsipras (left) attending a Syriza party central committee meeting in Athens yesterday in an attempt to settle differences among party members.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ATHENS • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, under fire from his Syriza party comrades over an unpopular EU-IMF bailout, proposed holding an emergency party congress in September to determine government strategy.

"I call on everyone to share the political responsibility for the unity of Syriza," Mr Tsipras told members of the party central committee yesterday.

"I propose holding... an emergency congress in September," the 41-year-old premier said.

Mr Tsipras is under pressure from a minority of Syriza members, who say the tough deal he signed with international creditors on July 12 goes against the government's anti-austerity promises.

Over 30 Syriza lawmakers this month refused to vote for reforms needed for a three-year bailout in two separate votes, and Mr Tsipras on Wednesday said early elections would have to be called if this resistance persisted.

Yesterday, he said that if Syriza members decided later in the day against holding an emergency congress in September, then the government's plan to ratify the bailout should be put to a party referendum on Sunday.

Mr Tsipras said there was an "absurd duality" in Syriza with many members, including former Cabinet members, voting against the reforms, and the government relying on opposition votes to secure their passage through Parliament.

"In our party, there are no lesser and greater leftists, lesser and greater revolutionaries," he said.

"If the goal is not common, there is no sense in coexisting," he added, raising the prospect of a split in the party.

A formal split within Syriza would strip Mr Tsipras of his parliamentary majority and could force him to hold snap elections.

Two government officials have said a vote could take place as soon as directly after Syriza's congress.

The so-called Left Platform of Syriza, led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, accuses Mr Tsipras of violating the mandate voters gave him in January and in a July 5 referendum that saw Greeks oppose further austerity measures.

Mr Lafazanis was replaced as energy minister after leading a revolt of Syriza lawmakers against the new agreement for as much as €86 billion (S$129 billion) attached to belt-tightening conditions.

"In theory, even an immediate Syriza split would not automatically lead to snap elections, as the current Parliament could agree to form a 'special purpose' government," analysts Paris Mantzavras and George Grigoriou of the Athens-based Pantelakis Securities, wrote in a note to clients.

While dissenters from his party have called on Mr Tsipras to annul a July 12 agreement with creditors, and lead the country out of the euro area, the Prime Minister told Sto Kokkino radio on Wednesday that the alternative to July's agreement would be the collapse of Greece's financial system.

"If I did what my heart was telling me to do, get up and leave, the very same day the branches of Greek banks abroad would fall," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline 'Tsipras faces split in party'. Subscribe