Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, heralding snap elections, most probably for September, in an attempt to consolidate his hold on power amid a mounting rebellion within SYRIZA against a new bailout signed with the country’s creditors.
Tsipras announced his resignation in a televised address to the nation before visiting President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and asking for the earliest possible election date.
Government officials said Tsipras would propose that the vote take place on September 20 though it might be later if leaders of other political parties exploit their right to try and form a government as some indicated on Thursday night.
“The mandate we received on January 25 has expired,” Tsipras said. “In a while I will visit the president and hand in my resignation and that of the government. Now it will be up to the people to decide,” he said.
In his speech, Tsipras sought to defend his government’s efforts to reach a deal with creditors but conceded that he failed to do so. “I want to be completely honest, we didn’t achieve the agreement we wanted,” he said.
But he indicated that he had tried his best and suggested that better days would come and that a new 86-billion-euro deal with creditors could pave the way for Greece to return to normality. “I feel the deep moral and political obligation to submit to your judgment,” he said. “You, your vote, will determine if we represented you with courage in the talks with the creditors, if this agreement is enough for us to emerge from the crisis.”
In a clear dig at rebels within the SYRIZA party, Tsipras spoke of “those who transformed the majority that the people gave us into a parliamentary minority.”
The initial reactions from the camp of Greece’s creditors appeared diplomatic, even upbeat. “Swift elections in Greece can be a way to broaden support for [European Stability Mechanism] stability support program just signed by PM Tsipras on behalf of Greece,” Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, wrote on Twitter.
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said he hoped Tsipras’s resignation and the new elections would not derail the latest deal. “It is crucial that Greece maintains its commitments to the eurozone,” Dijsselbloem said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters. “I recall the broad support in the Greek Parliament for the new program and reform package and I hope the elections will lead to even more support in the new Greek Parliament," the statement said.
Following Tsipras’s resignation last night, Greece’s Constitution grants the leaders of the largest three parties up to three days each to try and form a government. If they fail to do so or to decide not to exploit that right, then a caretaker prime minister will be appointed to serve until the elections. This will be the head of the Supreme Court, Vassiliki Thanou-Christofilou.