The decision by Alexis Tsipras to resign triggering a new election in Greece came as a shock for much of the European political elite. Actually it was a highly predictable consequence of the bailout he agreed with Greece’s creditors.
The simple fact was that Tsipras was elected in January on a groundswell of popular support for his far-Left Syriza party and its anti-austerity stance. The agreement he was forced to make with Eurozone leaders was a betrayal of previous promises to his voters not to cave in to pressure from the Troika, and Tsipras’ authority within his party has suffered as a result.
A number of Syriza MPs rebelled against the bailout in the Greek Parliament in protest at the harsh terms imposed by Germany and the betrayal of their anti-austerity election pledge.
More recently, scores of members of Syriza’s central committee have defected. Several of Tsipras’ former allies have resigned from the party and are expected to form an anti-austerity party in the coming days — most notably Zoi Konstantopoulos, the Speaker of the Greek Parliament.
To repeat, this hardcore of the Greek Left feel betrayed by the deal forced on Tsipras. They feel he backed down in the face of pressure from the Troika to sacrifice the Greek poor, the very people they had promised to protect.
Whilst Tsipras has managed, though his slick media appearances and speeches, to present the deal as a victory for the country, the truth is his resolve crumbled at the very moment when he had promised to show backbone.
The only apparent winners from the bailout deal were German politicians and the country’s banks. The banks have benefited from loaning Greece the money for the previous bailout, and repaying the high interest on these loans was the first use of the new bailout money, money which went straight back to the German banks!
Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have succeeded in crushing Greek resistance with their ‘good cop bad cop’ strategy, and have secured a deal which is greatly to the disadvantage of the Greek people.
Not only has there been no guarantee of debt relief, which has been strongly recommended by the IMF, but Greece has also been forced to give up much of its political autonomy and hugely valuable national assets.
Merkel recognised her own party was not supportive of the bailout. So she extracted exceedingly harsh terms from Greece in order to pacify her own MPs, who wanted Greece to be punished for previous years of high state spending.
It’s worth noting that Merkel is also trying to protect herself, as she is coming up for re-election next year.
To add insult to injury, Germany has regularly threatened to withhold future emergency funds if Greece does not follow the agreed bailout terms to the letter.
It is a cruel twist of fate that the Greeks had voted Syriza into power, forming a coalition with the UKIP-like Independent Greeks party on an anti-austerity and anti-Troika stance.
Tsipras’ subsequent bailout deal with the EU resulted in even harsher austerity measures than would have been enacted under the New Democracy party which had previously led the government. They have been forced to gift away the powers to resist Berlin-driven cuts in the future.
Tsipras sparked this election — which will take place on 20th September — with the hope of securing and increasing his political authority in Greece.
The irony should not be lost on him: he is now fighting for a position which has less real power than when he first got the job. The control exerted by Germany over the rights and needs of individual member states is one further reason why we must Get Britain Out of the EU.
This article was cross-posted in The Commentator