People march near Parliament to mark a 24-hour strike on Thursday called by the public sector union ADEDY against tax and pension reforms.
After weeks of the government insisting that it will see its four-year term through until 2019, the admission by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that the collapse of talks with creditors could spark snap elections fueled speculation and concern on Thursday.
The comments, made by Tsipras to SYRIZA MPs on Wednesday, constitute the first departure from the government’s narrative foreseeing the swift conclusion of the current bailout review, then debt relief followed by Greece’s inclusion in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program and its tapping of capital markets.
Privately, government officials concede that this ambitious plan will be impossible to realize and are expressing concerns about what course of action Greece’s international creditors may take.
In their public statements, government officials have said Athens still expects moves on debt relief on December 5 when eurozone finance ministers are to meet but they are now saying that a “political solution” will be required with some issues to be left pending.
As for the fresh speculation about snap polls prompted by Tsipras’s comments, government officials did not rule out the prospect. In comments to Real FM, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis put the onus on avoiding snap polls on Greece’s creditors. “If we are led to elections, that will be due to our inability to find common ground with our partners which will not be without consequences,” he said. “Obviously such a development – though not among the intentions of the government – could lead to elections but that would be damaging.”
Former prime minister Antonis Samaras weighed in, telling reporters that snap polls were possible. “The many problems, the bad judgment calls, the [bailout] review and all the actions that need to be enforced immediately... including pension reforms, lead one to many thoughts,” he said.