Saturday, July 11, 2015

Statesman or ideologue — Tsipras has to choose

by Aristides Hatzis

Financial Times

July 11, 2015

Even before the January elections in Greece, it was quite clear that the new Syriza government would have to negotiate on two different fronts: with Greece’s creditors and the Syriza extremists. Both negotiations failed miserably a fortnight ago when Alexis Tsipras realised that he could not compromise without undermining his fragile parliamentary majority.

The prime minister’s reaction was risky and foolish: he asked the Greek people to reject a proposal which, at the moment they voted on it, did not exist. The referendum supplied the result Mr Tsipras wanted but in many ways his position has deteriorated. His opportunistic manoeuvre infuriated almost every other European leader. The prospect of Grexit suddenly became more real.

If Mr Tsipras’s objective was to blackmail the institutions into offering a better deal, he clearly failed. His last minute proposal, delivered on Thursday night, was in line with most of the creditors’ demands. It was a bitter defeat for him and for those who advocated voting No. They won a referendum but lost a war.

Yet Mr Tsipras is more popular than ever. His political hegemony is unprecedented in recent Greek history. His latest ploy was to try to outsmart both the creditors and his own comrades with a bold move: a parliamentary vote, which he won in the early hours of Saturday morning, on his latest offer to the institutions. His party has had to swallow his proposal; who would dare to challenge him? Meanwhile, his intention is for the rest of Europe to conclude that Syriza has reached the limits of bending without breaking. Any more pressure will signify their determination to humiliate Mr Tsipras at any cost.


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