aNewDomain — The resignation of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has as much to do with the unfamiliar (to American readers) vagaries of parliamentary politics as payback for what Tsipras’ left flank views as a betrayal of the first order.
Tsipras’ Syriza party swept to a surprise win early this year when Greeks fed up by a vicious circle of austerity measures required by the German-dominated European Union, which caused sky-high unemployment and deprivation, turned out the ruling conservatives.
For a short time, the charismatic Tsipras seemed poised to follow through on his campaign promises to tell the EU where they could stick austerity, saying Greece could no longer service its international debt obligations without even more catastrophic cuts to government social safety net programs. This prompted talk that a “Grexit” — Greece’s exit from the monetary union and the euro, followed by a return to the pre-EU drachma as its currency — might be close at hand.
Fueling financial analysts’ belief that a Grexit might be close at hand was Tsipras’ national referendum on austerity, in which Greeks decisively rejected further austerity measures in exchange for refinancing of sovereign debt by the international financial community.
Then Tsipras performed one of those 180-degree pirouettes for which elected officials are so infamous, urging in July that Greece accept another round of brutal austerity cuts certain to make life for Greeks, and the Greek economy, even worse than the grim present state of affairs, in which PhD graduates are rooting through garbage for scraps of food.
Tsipras’ sellout has caused a split in Syriza.
Twenty-five out of Syriza’s 149 parliamentarians announced that they will leave the party to form Popular Unity, a new anti-austerity party.
This is a crisis — but Tsipras isn’t finished yet.
Polls show that he remains Greece’s most popular politician and Syriza is still the nation’s most-liked (or perhaps least-disliked) political party.
Though a gamble, Tsipras’ call for elections is a maneuver intended to shore up political support enough with the electorate to lure other parties (presumably not Popular Unity) to form a parliamentary coalition big enough to permit legislation to pass, doing an end-run around the dissident ex-Syriza faction.
Greek political observers say there’s no way to know how the election, which will probably be held September 20th, will turn out. Greek elections are notoriously unpredictable in general, and in the current state of political and economic crisis, anything could happen.