As Popularity Sinks, Tsipras Admits Coalition Possible

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 8
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 8 (European Parliament)

Greek far-left leader Alexis Tsipras opened the door to a coalition government on Monday but insisted that a deal could only be done on his Syriza party’s terms.

“What are they going to do,” he said of the other parties, “leave the country without a government?” Read more

Tsipras Rules Out Coalition with Establishment Parties

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 8
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 8 (European Parliament)

Outgoing prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday he would not form a coalition government with any of Greece’s establishment parties after snap elections next month.

“I’m not going to be prime minister [if it means] cooperating with parties from the old political system,” he said in a television interview.

But it is difficult to see how the far-left leader could stay in power if he rules out deals with the centrist To Potami or PASOK, Greece’s once-dominant social democrat party.

Tsipras’ Syriza currently rules in coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks, an ideologically fraught alliance that is only sustained by a shared animosity toward the country’s European creditors.

Since Tsipras reneged on his January election promises to cancel austerity, the rationale for that alliance would appear to have gone away.

In July – following months of strenuous negotiations — the Greek leader agreed to enact far-reaching economic and political reforms to win a third, €86 billion bailout from the European Union.

Greece desperately needed the money to contain a bank run and stave off sovereign default which could have triggered its ejection from the eurozone.

Tsipras’ capitulation divided Syriza. Dozens of his 149 members refused to back the bailout plan in parliament, forcing the prime minister to rely on the very “establishment” parties he disparaged on Thursday to get it approved.

Last week, 25 of Syriza’s lawmakers walked out to form a new anti-bailout party, Popular Unity. It could conceivably form a coalition with Syriza after next month’s election but then what was the point of splitting away?

Polls show Tsipras remains personally popular but there’s little chance the rump Syriza will win enough support for an absolute majority. It only got 30 percent of the votes in January.

No opinion poll has been published since Tsipras called snap elections but earlier surveys gave the unified Syriza around 33 percent support, not enough for a majority. Assuming Popular Unity takes several percentage points off that, the chances of Tsipras being able to govern without To Potami or PASOK seem remote.

Tsipras Shirks Responsibility, to Call Early Elections

German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Berlin, March 24
German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras in Berlin, March 24 (Bundesregierung)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to resign on Thursday and call early elections that should give him a fresh mandate to face off a rebellion inside his far-left Syriza party.

He doesn’t need one.

Tsipras got two mandates from Greek voters this year, the first in parliamentary elections in January when Syriza fell only two seats short of an overall majority and the second in July when his government overwhelmingly won a referendum on the terms of its last bailout.

Granted, those mandates were to do the opposite of what Tsipras has done: to reject the demands of Greece’s creditors for economic reforms in return for financial support. But his original promise — that Greece could cancel austerity and still get aid — was false in the first place and polls show another election would deliver more or less the same result as the one in January.

The reason for calling early elections then seems the same as for calling the referendum in July: Tsipras is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions and eager to transfer that responsibility to the Greek electorate.

Voters may have given him a mandate to renege on Greece’s commitments under its previous bailout program but they never gave him a mandate to exit the euro. Those expectations were irreconcilable and Tsipras should never have pretended otherwise. Other European countries made clear in advance of both the January elections and the July referendum that Greece could only continue to get the financial support and stay in the eurozone if it continued to liberalize its economy.

Tsipras finally came to terms with reality after the referendum, agreeing to a package of comprehensive economic and political reforms in return for a third bailout, worth €85 billion.

Some in his Syriza party, however, insist Greece can have its cake and eat it too. Around a third of its lawmakers voted against the terms of the bailout which only passed with support from opposition parties.

Short of persuading his members, a responsible leader would give rebels in his party a choice: support the government or bring it down. Syriza’s rebels are prepared to do neither. And rather than risk responsibility for splitting his party by forcing the issue, Tsipras is once again asking Greek voters to bail him out.

Greek Referendum Reveals Tsipras’ Political Cowardice

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers questions from reporters in Brussels, February 4 (European Parliament)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras unexpectedly called a referendum on the country’s latest bailout offer on Sunday, exasperating his creditors who said the decision shut the door on a deal to stop the country from entering default next week.

Tsipras’ decision is one of cowardice and desperation. For months, he has tried to make good on a promise to end austerity and failed. Greece’s European Union creditors and the International Monetary Fund insist it broadly honors the program Tsipras’ predecessors committed to: a combination of spending cuts and liberal economic reforms that is designed to prevent another Greek debt crisis in the future. Read more

Greece Still Doesn’t Get It; Tsipras Lashes Out at Creditors

Greek Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras makes a speech in parliament in Athens, June 10, 2011
Greek Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras makes a speech in parliament in Athens, June 10, 2011 (Greek Prime Minister’s Office)

Greece’s radical left-wing prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, still doesn’t seem to understand his country is in no position to make demands.

In an op-ed for France’s Le Monde, he lashes out at other European nations for imposing “harsh punishment” on Greece and forcing it to enact supposedly failed austerity policies in exchange for more aid.

“The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance,” writes Tsipras.

It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people.

Read more

In Moscow, Greece’s Tsipras Hints at Closer Ties with Russia

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian president Vladimir Putin sign agreements in Moscow, April 8
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian president Vladimir Putin sign agreements in Moscow, April 8 (Greek Prime Minister’s Office)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras won mostly symbolic support from Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday.

Earlier, his foreign minister had joined counterparts from Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey in endorsing plans for the construction of a new Russian gas pipeline into Europe, raising concerns in Brussels that countries close to Russia might deviate from the common energy and sanctions policy that was put in place after the country occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Although Tsipras did not suggest Greece could pull out of the sanctions regime, he did reiterate his opposition to the embargo in a joint news conference with Putin, saying, “Greece is a sovereign country with an unquestionable right to implement a multidimensional foreign policy and exploit its geopolitical role.”

Putin said he understood that Greece was forced to go along with the policy and disputed claims that Russia was using its historical relationship with a fellow Christian Orthodox nation to divide Europe.

“I want to assure you that we do not aim to use any internal European Union situations to improve ties with the European bloc as a whole,” the Russian leader said.

Before visiting Moscow on one of his first foreign trips since becoming prime minister in January, Tsipras had told lawmakers in Athens his government could serve as a “bridge” between Moscow and the West. He heralded “a new impetus to the Russian-Greek relations which have very deep roots in history.”

Members of Tsipras’ cabinet have openly suggested they could seek Russian financial support if the rest of Europe will not give Greece debt relief nor relax the conditions of its bailout.

“If there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow Europe apart, then we will have to go to Plan B,” Panos Kammenos, the defense minister, has said.

Kammenos leads the right-wing Independent Greeks, Tsipras’ coalition partner. It advocates closer relations with Russia and sees Putin as a fellow social conservative who will resist pernicious liberal influences from the West.

No aid offer was made on Wednesday and Putin and Tsipras both denied it was even discussed.

“The Greek side has not addressed us with any requests for aid,” Putin said.

Tsipras added, “Greece is not a beggar going around to countries asking them to solve its economic problem.”

With its international bailout due to expire and negotiations about continued financial support from the rest of European Union hamstrung by Tsipras’ insistence on reversing reform commitments his predecessors made, other European states worry that his radical government might unwittingly engineering a geopolitical realignment that would see Russia gaining access to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Greece has assured its creditors it will be able to make good on its payments at least this month.

Russian support so far amounts to little more than gestures of goodwill. Officials said they were considering proposals to ease a retaliatory ban on European food products that has hit Greek farmers especially hard. Putin also said Russia would be interested in bidding for privatization tenders.

Although Tsipras’ party is principally opposed to privatizations, Greek energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis announced last month that Russian companies would participate in a tender for deep-sea oil and gas exploration.

Greece is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. That dependence could only increase if it indeed participates in the construction of a new Black Sea pipeline tentatively called “Turkish Stream”. It is meant to replace South Stream, a pipeline that would have run through European Union member state Bulgaria and was canceled by Russia last year as relations between the two sides deteriorated over to the crisis in Ukraine.

Tsipras Suggests Greece Could Serve as “Bridge” to Russia

View of Moscow's Red Square from Saint Basil's Cathedral, Russia, October 12, 2014
View of Moscow’s Red Square from Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Russia, October 12, 2014 (Brando.n)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras criticized European sanctions on Russia as a “road to nowhere” on Tuesday and suggested that his country could serve as a “bridge” between Moscow and the West. Read more