NEWS

Greek PM puzzling over snap election date

greek-pm-puzzling-over-snap-election-date

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was mulling Wednesday when to call early elections, with a decision expected next week according to the government.

Tsipras has to implement a third austerity bailout that has split his radical left SYRIZA party, rendering him powerless to push further reform bills through parliament in the fall.

"There are issues concerning the government’s stability and whether it can guarantee (a stable) and smooth parliamentary process," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said on Wednesday.

"The government aims to address these issues next week," she added.

Tsipras was expected to call a vote of confidence this week after his government suffered another mutiny in parliament on Thursday, losing 47 out of its 149 lawmakers in a vote to approve the three-year, 86-billion-euro bailout.

Two previous votes to approve tax hikes and administrative reform measures had also seen over 30 SYRIZA lawmakers bolt.

But no initiatives have been announced so far by the government, with Gerovasili indicating that Athens did not want to rock the boat before the bailout begins to take effect.

Greece is expected to draw a first tranche of 13 billion euros (14.35 billion dollars) by August 20, when it must repay 3.4 billion euros to the European Central Bank.

"There are priorities that must be assured," Gerovasili told Skai radio. "The main goal was to reach a (bailout) deal. The second great target is to restore stability in the economy. And there is the goal of having a discussion over debt viability," she said.

Tsipras has said that Greece’s creditors – the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – have agreed to discuss relief measures on the country’s enormous public debt when a first assessment of reform compliance is completed in November.

The debt currently stands at 312.8 billion euros, the finance ministry said Wednesday.

The IMF has explicitly demanded measures to make Greece’s debt repayment viable before it signs onto the bailout.

Gerovasili has previously said elections in the autumn were likely.

"Snap elections a certainty – date in question," said leftist Efimerida ton Syntakton daily, adding that debt restructuring would be a "major asset" for Tsipras in an election campaign.

However, there are dozens of measures on tax, competition, social security and pensions that must be voted through and brought into force by the end of the year.

The hardliners in SYRIZA have pledged to maintain their opposition to the measures and accuse Tsipras of betraying the anti-austerity values that brought him to power.

"Under no circumstances will we give the green light to anyone to apply this third bailout and perpetuate disastrous policies," Panagiotis Lafazanis, head of the Syriza faction opposing Tsipras, told Real news website. [AFP]