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Greece's Tsipras resigns in bailout drama
World

Greece's Tsipras resigns in bailout drama

3 min. 21.08.2015 From our online archive
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation and called for snap elections on Thursday, as he went on the offensive to defend the country's massive bailout after it triggered a rebellion within his own hard-left party.

(AFP) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation and called for snap elections on Thursday, as he went on the offensive to defend the country's massive bailout after it triggered a rebellion within his own hard-left party.

Tsipras knew all too well that Greece's huge bailout would appall many in his Syriza party - but now the hard-fought rescue has cost him his government.

Tsipras, who resigned Thursday calling for snap elections, had swept to power in January vowing an end to the deep and painful spending cuts demanded by Greece's creditors in exchange for 240 billion euros of financial aid since 2010.

Then, after months of bitter negotiations with the creditors, he reluctantly signed his debt-crippled government up to more of the same tough reforms - despite having earlier convinced Greeks to reject such measures in a referendum.

The youthful and charismatic premier insisted that a third rescue package-- worth 86 billion euros - was the only way to prevent the country from defaulting on its enormous debts and crashing out of the eurozone.

"I had specific choices before me: one was to accept a deal I disagree with on many points, another was a disorderly default," he said.

'Greece is being sold'

But for furious critics within his hard-left party Syriza, the agreement represented capitulation to "blackmail" from the creditors and an unacceptable betrayal of everything they stood for.

"Every corner and beauty of Greece is being sold," railed parliament speaker Zoe Constantopoulou, decrying the bailout deal as a "crime against humanity."

Tsipras had battled a major rebellion within the party for weeks, with dozens of his MPs refusing to back the bailout in three successive parliamentary votes.

Each time, he was forced to rely on the opposition to get crucial bills approving the rescue passed - meaning he had effectively lost his parliamentary majority.

It is perhaps no wonder that Tsipras' mother said recently that he barely has time to eat or sleep. Yet it shows surprisingly little; with a frank smile, the premier is rare to show either anger or fatigue.

Despite being unable to keep his lawmakers in line, the 41-year-old nonetheless remains widely trusted by Greeks as the best man to be leading the country through the crisis, and is far ahead of any of his rivals in opinion polls.

He once again leapt fiercely to the bailout's defence as he announced his resignation, saying: "I want to submit to the Greek people everything I have done so that they can decide once more."

Rebel who backed down

A fan of Che Guevara and a hater of neck-ties, Tsipras forged his firebrand image early in life, protesting as a teenager for students' right to skip class if they want. He met Betty Baziana - the mother of his two boys - at high school, when both joined the Communist Youth.

An engineer by training, Tsipras was born in the suburbs of Athens in 1974, the year which marked the collapse of a seven-year army dictatorship that mercilessly persecuted leftists and Communists.

His early steps in politics were informed by hard-left positions even as he took up with different parties, winning a seat on Athens' municipal council with Synaspismos, a left-wing coalition, in 2007. 

He was elected Synaspismos leader the following year, and Syriza leader in 2008, aged just 34.

In Brussels, his erratic negotiating tactics infuriated creditors, who accused the Greeks of gambling the country's future by engaging in irresponsible brinkmanship - notably by calling a snap referendum on the bailout, urging citizens to reject the proposals.

As if Greece's financial woes weren't enough to contend with, the prime minister has also been struggling to contain a second crisis -- the huge influx of migrants and refugees landing on the country's shores, hoping to start a new life in Europe.

With 160,000 arrivals since January - more than 20,800 in the last week alone - Tsipras warned this month that the problem "surpasses" Greece's ability to cope.