Monday 18 December 2017

Syriza rebels form new far-Left grouping

The new party will be led by Panagiotis Lafazanis
The new party will be led by Panagiotis Lafazanis

Nick Squires in Rome

Hard-line rebels within Greece's Syriza party broke away from their leader Alexis Tsipras yesterday, forming their own party and vowing to aggressively oppose austerity measures imposed by creditors in return for the latest €86bn bailout.

A group of 25 extreme Leftist MPs abandoned Syriza a day after the prime minister handed in his resignation in a move which will likely lead to a fresh election on September 20.

The new party, called Popular Unity, will be led by Panagiotis Lafazanis, a former energy minister who was dismissed by Mr Tsipras last month for refusing to support the government.

He wants to overturn the bailout, which took months to painstakingly negotiate, and to have most of Greece's debt written off.

The party acknowledged that could lead to Greece's exit from the eurozone.

Mr Lafazanis, a 63-year-old mathematician who was involved in the struggle to oust Greece's military rulers four decades ago, said Popular Unity aimed to restore wages and pensions that have been cut during five years of austerity.

The party would also reject new taxes and push for the nationalising of banks.

"The country cannot breathe and stand on its feet unless a big part of the debt is cancelled," Mr Lafazanis told a news conference to launch the party.

"The country cannot take more bailouts. We will either finish off the bailouts, or the bailouts will finish off Greece and the Greek people."

Popular Unity hopes to represent the huge number of Greeks who, in a national referendum in June, voted to reject the terms of the austerity-for-aid package offered by international creditors.

Despite that result, Mr Tsipras was forced into a dramatic U-turn just days after the referendum, signing up to a new austerity deal that many Greeks saw as even more draconian.

"We want to give a voice to the 62pc of the people who said 'No' and do not want bailouts," said Costas Lapavitsas, one of the rebel MPs. "We see strong support from the people who feel betrayed."

The new party will be the third largest in the 300-seat parliament but with just 25 MPs has almost no chance of forming a government.

Under Greece's constitutional rules, the president offered the conservative opposition, the New Democracy party, the chance to form a government, but that too seems improbable given that it has only 76 MPs - hence the likelihood of a September poll.

By ridding himself of the troublesome far-Left element within his party, Mr Tsipras is gambling that he will be returned to power with a more centrist party and a stronger mandate. He hopes to be in a position where he can implement the terms of the bailout, including tax increases and pension cuts - despite them being exactly the measures he had promised to fight when he was elected in January.

Whatever the outcome of the next four weeks' political horse-trading, the rest of Europe warned Greece that it must uphold its pledges to adopt further austerity measures and make reforms.

"The Greeks have no alternative. They know the new package will stop immediately if commitments are not met. Even if a new government was elected it couldn't change anything," Michael Fuchs, a leading German conservative, told Italy's 'Corriere della Sera' newspaper. "It's up to them to decide."

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the rest of the euro zone would be watching to make sure Greece honoured its agreements. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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