Greek PM warns hardliners with snap vote to approve reforms

Greek PM warns hardliners with snap vote to approve reforms
Tsipras, at loggerheads with Greece’s creditors since his election in January, insisted a ‘No’ vote would “not signify a rupture with Europe”
PHOTO: Reuters

ATHENS - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said he would hold early elections if hardliners in his party continued to resist an unpopular new bailout deal that promised debt relief.

"If we do not have a parliament majority I will be forced, we will be forced to hold elections," Tsipras said in a two-hour interview with Sto Kokkino radio.

He added that under the terms of the EU-IMF agreement signed on July 12, Greece after November could expect a reduction of its huge public debt in addition to up to 86 billion euros (S$130 billion) in funds, following a first assessment of reforms.

Tsipras faces strong resistance from a sizeable faction of his leftist Syriza party that rejects the new bailout as contrary to the government's anti-austerity promises.

In response, the 41-year-old premier has called for an emergency party congress to confirm the government's strategy, adding that this would "to a great extent" determine whether early elections will have to be held to take the country forward.

"I would be the last person to want elections if I had a guaranteed parliamentary majority on a plan to complete (my) four-year term... That includes completing the (rescue) programme," he said.

Earlier this month, Tsipras saw more than 30 of his 149 lawmakers mutiny in two separate votes in parliament to approve tax hikes, a pension overhaul and administrative reforms tied to the bailout, effectively rendering his coalition a minority government.

On Wednesday he said he faced "surreal" behaviour from some of his party cadres who claimed to support the government while voting against the measures to preserve their "ideological purity".

Tsipras said the Syriza congress would probably be held in September.

A possible demand by hardliners for a party decision before the bailout agreement is finalised and ratified by parliament was tantamount to "making the bomb explode in (my) hands," he said.

The main challenge to Tsipras comes from his party's eurosceptic wing, headed by 63-year-old former senior Communist Panagiotis Lafazanis.

Lafazanis, who was ousted as energy minister this month after publicly opposing the bailout deal, is believed to control around a third of the party.

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