As creditors return to Athens, Tsipras grapples with domestic challenges


Representatives of Greece’s lenders are due to begin arriving in Athens on Friday ahead of talks on a third bailout but internal party politics continues to dominate Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s agenda.

A few hours after Parliament passed the second bill containing prior actions demanded by lenders as a pre-condition for holding bailout talks, Tsipras met with parliamentary speaker Zoe Constantopoulou, who opposed the legislation as she did a week earlier.

While Constantopoulou insisted after the meeting that her talks with Tsipras had taken place in an “honest and collegial” atmosphere, government sources suggested it had been made clear to the parliamentary speaker that her behavior is creating problems for the coalition.

Apart from voting against both bills containing prior actions demanded by Greece’s lenders, Constantopoulou has also enraged government officials by being a stickler for parliamentary rules. The speaker resisted attempts to wrap up both votes relatively quickly and has demanded that she be allowed to speak in both debates.

“It is important for those representing institutions to be able to speak honestly and directly even if they have different views,” said Constantopoulou upon leaving Thursday's meeting.

However, government sources said Tsipras had expressed to the speaker during their two-hour meeting his concern about the “institutional discord” she is creating. The government has not made any move to submit a censure motion against Constantopoulou but the prime minister’s stance suggests that he is encouraging his MPs to vote against the speaker should another party gather the 50 lawmakers’ signatures needed for a ballot to be held on whether the speaker should continue in her role.

Also on Thursday, SYRIZA’s political committee held a brief meeting during which it was decided that it would hold a proper session on Monday to assess the mood in the party after more than 30 leftist MPs opposed both bills containing prior actions.

Before then, Greek government officials are likely to begin meeting representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism, who are due in Athens on Friday. Officials from the fourth of Greece’s creditors, the International Monetary Fund, will not be among them.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday that Athens had not yet officially requested the Fund’s participation in the third program. “The modalities and the process for the discussions are still to be decided,” he said.