In a strongly worded speech to SYRIZA MPs, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday emphasized his government’s determination to continue on the difficult path of economic reform, doused speculation about a unity government and accused the political opposition of passivity.
“SYRIZA is today the only and indisputable pillar of stability in the country’s political life,” Tsipras told a session of his party’s parliamentary group.
He dismissed speculation about a possible broadening of SYRIZA’s coalition with Independent Greeks. But State Minister Alekos Flambouraris hinted at a possible cooperation with the Union of Centrists, which is led by Vassilis Leventis.
The prospect of a cooperation with Leventis, however, is opposed by several members of SYRIZA’s 53+ faction which could test party unity at a sensitive time for the government.
In his speech, Tsipras rebuked New Democracy for its dithering over a leadership vote, declaring that “the main opposition party can’t even hold elections to elect a new leader” and accused PASOK of supporting a “paralyzed and profoundly unstable right.”
Making no reference to his government’s fragile majority of three seats in Parliament, Tsipras instead sought to play up his administration’s achievements, reeling off a list including the protection of primary residences, the continuation of a repayment scheme allowing debtors to pay off their dues in up to 100 installments, the replacement of an unpopular value-added tax on private education with other measures, and the recapitalization of Greek banks.
He underlined the “serious success of the government and its negotiating strategy” and appealed to SYRIZA MPs to defend these successes to its constituents and to back upcoming reforms. As for a contentious pension overhaul demanded by creditors, Tsipras said “we will do everything to avert further painful cuts.”
“Our key duty at this stage is to remain focused on our strategic plan for exiting the crisis,” he said and slammed the opposition for “refusing to contribute to the creation of a negotiating front, a common national line aimed at protecting main and auxiliary pensions and the pension system.”
Tsipras stressed that his government will press on with its agenda whether the opposition supports it or not. “The dogs may bark but the caravan goes on,” he said, borrowing a line from Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet.
The opposition reacted angrily to Tsipras’s speech. PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata accused Tsipras of “dividing and polarizing.”
In the ranks of ND, there was continued upheaval over when and how new leadership elections will be held.
Meanwhile a close aide to former premier Antonis Samaras noted that the latter and former PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos “will be called upon to take over once Tsipras collapses.”
Leventis, the leader of the small centrist party which the government is said to be courting ahead of upcoming parliamentary votes on bailout measures, did not rule out a cooperation.
But he said he would not “pay for the sins of the whole political system,” criticizing other opposition parties who have supported or implemented bailouts in the past but refuse to do so now.