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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced he is resigning after tough bailout negotiations, paving the way for snap elections. Judy Woodruff speaks to John Psaropoulos, a blogger for thenewathenian.com.
There was another dramatic chapter in the Greek economic crisis this evening, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced to his nation that he's resigning.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Greek Prime Minister (through translator):
My fellow Greeks, I leave it up to your judgment, and my conscience is clear. I am proud of the battle my government and I have fought. We fought to stay true to our promises. We negotiated hard and insistently for a very long time. We held out against pressures and blackmail. It's true we reached our limit, but we made the Greek issue into an international issue.
Joining us now with more on the prime minister's announcement is journalist John Psaropoulos.
So, John, what does this mean for the nation of Greece?
JOHN PSAROPOULOS, Blogger, THENEWATHENIAN.com:
It means that this party, the left-wing Syriza Party, will probably be reelected with a broadened majority in about a month's time, and will see that as a vindication of the effort that it made last month to negotiate an austerity-free bailout loan with its European creditors, something that clearly it didn't succeed in doing.
And because that had been a key election promise back in January, it says that it now needs a renewed mandate. This, though, has to do with two other things. First, it has to clear its own house. It's got to get rid of its far-left backbenchers, who are now a very powerful internal opposition and have drawn a third of Syriza's members of Parliament away from the prime minister.
And the second thing that is going on here is that Syriza sees an opportunity to win single-party government, in other words, to be able to rule without a coalition partner and to achieve broadened authority.
So, are you saying Tsipras thinks he's stronger as a result of what's happened lately?
Well, counterintuitively, yes, the polls seem to indicate that he would come out stronger as a result of seven months at the helm, during which the economy transitioned from one that had a positive outlook of 3 percent growth this year to renewed recession from — and also after a period during which he essentially didn't succeed in sticking to his campaign promises.
But Tsipras has played the election rule book devastatingly well. He triggered an early election back in 2012, which saw his party go from 16 percent of the popular vote to 26, and he did it again in January this year, when he refused to join the conservative — well, the people who were then the ruling country, the ruling Conservatives, in a bipartisan consensus to elect a new president of the republic.
And that saw him come to power 36 percent. So he's leapt forward by 20 percentage points in — through the tactic of triggering early elections. I think Syriza believes that it can achieve this result again a third time.
So, John Psaropoulos, what happens to the austerity measures that were passed? They had a referendum just a matter of weeks ago. They were approved by the Greek Parliament, they were passed by the European Union. Where does all that stand?
Well, all of that has been broadcast here in the local media. It has been run in the local press.
But everyone I have spoken to hasn't, except a hazy idea, of what it really involves for them. They do know that Syriza suffered a serious defeat in Brussels when talking to their creditors. They do know that the government essentially did a U-turn on the austerity issue, was forced to swallow it.
I think what's going on is that people believe that, even though Syriza didn't succeed, it failed not because of its own tactical errors, but because Greece as a nation isn't strong enough to face down international creditors, international institutions and 27 European Union partners, all of whom have voting publics to answer to.
So I think people are essentially willing to give this government the benefit of the doubt for another term.
So, quickly, the austerity measures that will be implemented will be what we — what they were supposed to be before, or will they be weakened as a result of this?
No, the conservatives, when they fell from power, were negotiating something in the neighborhood of a billion dollars in additional austerity measures that would have taken effect this year.
The deal that we now have in July looks — is set to impose austerity measures worth at least $15 billion over three years, roughly 2, 2.5 percent of the economy each year. Therefore, it is much worse. But what Syriza argues is that, yes, we were forced to bow to this, but we did also get a $40 billion investment program, a development program from the European Commission. That's being funded federally, if you like. We did also got an understanding that our primary surpluses — that means the amount of money that will be extracted from the Greek economy to pay creditors — will be far lower than what was originally foreseen.
Syriza says that the Greek public has been spared about $22 billion worth of payments to creditors. And, thirdly, the party says, we will be distributing the burden of the present austerity much more fairly, much more equitably. It won't be just the poor and middle class. The rich will also pay their share.
John Psaropoulos in Athens, we thank you.
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