NEWS

Tension in SYRIZA grows ahead of vote on measures

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos listens in Parliament ahead of the vote, in Athens, on Wednesday.

TAGS: Euro, Politics

Parliament was expected to approve on in the early hours of Thursday the second set of prior actions demanded by Greece’s lenders as a precondition for starting talks on a third bailout, although the vote was preceded by an apparent worsening of relations within ruling SYRIZA.

Several hours ahead of the vote, parliamentary speaker Zoe Constantopoulou wrote to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to complain that the government was using an emergency procedure to pass the bill, as it did for the first set of prior actions last week.

Constantopoulou suggested in her letter that the practice of rushing legislation through Parliament was a threat to democracy and a direct challenge to the Constitution. Pavlopoulos responded that his role did not permit him to comment and pointed out that Constantopoulou was expressing her personal opinion and not that of Parliament as she had not put the matter to a vote.

Tsipras accepted the speaker’s request to meet at noon on Thursday. Constantopoulou was one of 32 SYRIZA MPs who voted against last week’s legislation and made it clear that she would reject the second bill.

Amid growing fears about a split within SYRIZA, the party’s political secretariat is expected to convene on Thursday to assess the outlook following the vote and to call a meeting of the central committee, possibly on the weekend.

The divisions were clear in Parliament on Wednesday. Panayiotis Lafazanis, the head of the radical Left Platform, responded to criticism by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to aides, which was leaked to the media on Tuesday.

“We are turning our backs on our common struggles when we basically say that memorandums, austerity and submission to blackmail are the only choice while we lambast every alternative proposal,leaving Greece at the mercy of the creditors,” he said.

Lafazanis added that now is not the time for threats and tensions, suggesting again that the country should leave the euro. “Greece has no future as a blackmailed austerity colony of the eurozone, but as a proud country which, without guardianship and despite the difficulties, fights against poverty, austerity and unemployment and for the deep reduction of debt.”

An article on Left Platform’s website iskra.gr, responded more directly to Tsipras’s leaked criticism of alternative plans which have been attributed to Lafazanis among others, condemning the premier for not ensuring that Greece had a fallback option.

“When did the prime minister actually realize that there was no alternative solution? If he knew it from the beginning, why didn’t he sign a much more lenient agreement in February?” the author of the article asks. “Why was he talking until just the other day about cancelling the memorandums? Why did he take the decision to hold a referendum?”

The government spokesperson, Olga Gerovasili, indicated too, in comments to Alpha radio station, that the division of SYRIZA is “probably” unavoidable “if there continue to be two different strategies, two different points of view.” She did not rule out the possible need for early elections.

Meanwhile, New Democracy’s interim leader is expected to ask members of the party’s political committee at a meeting on Friday to either authorize him to remain at the helm for the months to come or to allow him to launch a leadership contest.

Kathimerini understands that Meimarakis, installed as caretaker leader earlier this month, would propose a ballot to be held on August 30.

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