Tsipras hits back after SYRIZA rebels form own group

Tsipras hits back after SYRIZA rebels form own group

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chaired a meeting of SYRIZA’s political secretariat on Friday to discuss strategy ahead of snap elections as former Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis announced his new breakaway party, Popular Unity, which is to campaign on an anti-austerity platform.

The party, comprising Lafazanis and another 24 SYRIZA hardliners, will aim to cancel Greece’s bailouts and write down the country’s debt, Lafazanis told a press conference in Parliament. The goals are virtually the same as those championed by Tsipras ahead of the January elections that brought SYRIZA to power. But Lafazanis, who has lobbied for Greece to return to the drachma, also indicated that his party would “follow the course of exiting the euro” if necessary, insisting that any exit would be “orderly.”

Lafazanis, whose party is now the third largest in Parliament and as such has the right to seek to form a government, said Popular Unity would seek alliances with all “progressive” parties except those that have backed austerity. Lafazanis is to take over the exploratory mandate on Monday from New Democracy leader Vangelis Meimarakis, who assumed it yesterday.

Tsipras meanwhile convened his political secretariat. Before discussing pre-election strategy, the three members of the secretariat who are now aligned with Lafazanis resigned. They blamed Tsipras and SYRIZA’s leadership for the breakup of the party.

Tsipras also took a jab at the SYRIZA rebels. “It is not revolutionary to choose to escape from reality or create a virtual reality,” he was quoted as saying. “It is revolutionary to open roads where there aren’t any.” As for SYRIZA, he said it “has a chance to develop a new relationship with the society that supports it and to acquire a clear ideological and political identity of a contemporary, radical left, purged of reactionary remnants and self-delusion.” The party’s central committee is expected to meet in the week.

It remains unclear when the elections will take place. The proposal was for September 20 but if the procedures involving the exploratory mandates are delayed, that date could be put back to September 27.

Parliament Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou, another SYRIZA rebel who has used her power to delay and obstruct proceedings in the House, raised objections yesterday to the procedure followed by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in handing a mandate to Meimarakis. She accused Pavlopoulos of an “institutional faux pas,” saying that she had not been informed in advance as, she said, the Constitution dictates.

Sources in the president’s office retorted that he had “honored the Constitution to the letter.” The intervention was not expected to delay the process though the outlook for Constantopoulou’s relationship with SYRIZA remained unclear.

The response from Greece’s creditors to looming elections appeared relatively upbeat, with several officials indicating that they had been expecting the move and saying the polls could help Tsipras broaden his majority and boost implementation of the new bailout program.

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