Greek PM to resign, call elections for Sept. – USA TODAY
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will resign Thursday and call early elections for next month in a bid to defang his party’s leftist rebels in parliament and consolidate support behind a tough, but unpopular, bailout program, according to government officials.
The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity pending an announcement by the prime minister, said the snap polls would be held on Sept. 20, according to the Associated Press.
The prime minister planned to submit his resignation later Thursday and meet with the country’s president to clear the way for the vote, said the officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity pending the formal announcement.
A sizable portion of Tsipras’ own Syriza party refused to back a third bailout package in parliament last week that secured Greece 86 billion euros ($96 billion) in rescue funds.
“The certainty is that the need for elections has arisen,” Energy and Environment Minister Panos Skourletis said on state television Thursday.
He said there are two reasons for snap polls, which would come just nine months after the government came to power. The first is that dozens of Tsipras’ governing left-wing Syriza party lawmakers voted against the government on the bailout deal. The government “has lost its majority (in parliament) — one can’t avoid this,” Skourletis said.
Meanwhile, Greece received on Thursday the first 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) from the new bailout package, allowing it to pay a debt of 3.2 billion euros ($3.6 billion) to the European Central Bank and avoid a messy default. The ECB confirmed Greece made the payment Thursday.
Missing the payment would have raised new questions about the country’s ability to remain in the eurozone, an economic bloc comprised of 19 countries. The funds were earmarked for repaying debts and for settling arrears to public sector suppliers.
Although parliament approved the bailout bill last week, Tsipras has had to rely on opposition parties for support, which has made it difficult seek a vote of confidence in the package.
The popular, 41-year-old prime minister campaigned against the bailouts in the last parliamentary elections, but then accepted the latest plan, which mandates tax increases and spending cuts to avoid a collapse of the country’s banking system.
Complicating matters, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis published a detailed blog post on Monday in which he trashed the recent bailout agreement, calling it a “humiliating capitulation” that will push Greece deeper into recession, the Greek Herald reports.