Tsipras moots referendum if deal falls outside his mandate

The suggestion by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday that he could resort to calling a referendum, if an agreement with creditors falls outside his anti-austerity mandate, fueled speculation as well as criticism.

Although Tsipras stressed, in his interview with Star TV, that he was confident Greece would reach a deal with creditors, his suggestion that a referendum could be needed raised questions. Underlining that there are “great possibilities for winning this negotiation,” Tsipras said he would turn to the Greek people if the terms are too tough. “If the solution offered goes beyond our mandate, it will have to be endorsed by the people,” he said. He ruled out snap elections, however, saying there was no need for them.

His move, which comes as a newly overhauled negotiating team drafts proposed reforms, prompted a range of reactions, at home and abroad.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said a referendum would “create great political uncertainty.” “I don’t think we have the time,” he told Dutch RTL Nieuws TV in an interview. “And I don’t think the Greeks have time for it.” “Without further loans, Greece won’t make it, that’s the reality,” he added.

At home, the opposition lashed out against Tsipras for suggesting he would turn to the Greek people after just three months in government, suggesting that a such a move would amount to the coalition shirking its responsibilities. Commenting on what he perceived to be Tsipras’s options, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was blunt: “An about-turn by the government or a referendum on the drachma,” he said.

Opinions about Tsipras’s intentions varied within the coalition. According to one source, the move could be an attempt by the premier to appease those within leftist SYRIZA who are in favor of a rift with creditors unless the party is allowed to enforce its pre-election program of anti-austerity measures. Other sources suggested that Tsipras might be keeping the referendum option open as a way of gaining approval, if necessary, for a shift in policies to be included in a broader agreement with creditors in June.

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