Tsipras trapped inside his own Shakespearean drama

As the prime minister continues talks with creditors over Greece's debt, some organisations have begun agitating.

    Tsipras has staked his political credibility on propping up Greece's poor against the demands of the creditors [AFP]
    Tsipras has staked his political credibility on propping up Greece's poor against the demands of the creditors [AFP]

    In the not very well known Shakespeare play Timon of Athens, the hero is a wealthy philanthropist who bestows his largess on anyone who claims to like him.

    His creditors love him to begin with, but when the money runs out they turn on him, these false friends. Timon takes himself off to the wilderness where he eventually dies a broken man.

    I went to see this play a few months ago in London. They had set it in Canary Wharf, the home of the UK's banking industry. How very topical, how prescient of Shakespeare to understand the nature of capitalism hundreds of years before its invention.

    And as I sit here in Brussels I can't help but wonder if the same fate is about to befall Tsipras of Athens, a man who has staked his political credibility on propping up Greece's poor against the demands of the creditors at the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

    Inside Story: Greece debt crisis - brinkmanship or bust?

    Tsipras has gone against every instinct in his body by offering billions of euros worth of tax hikes, some against pensioners, to keep Greece afloat.

    But the creditors say it isn't enough. They want more, they want cuts too, and other than the IMF it seems there's not much appetite for reorganising the debt to make it easier for Greece to pay it back.

    Tsipras is trying to dig his heels in because he knows if they break him completely, if he gives in to what they want, it will probably cast him into the political wilderness.

    His party is revolting over the plans, there might need to be fresh elections. The centrist Potami party has been quietly backing the creditors' plan, here in Brussels too, under Tsipras' nose.

    So I wonder - given that the creditors and Germany all say they want Greece to stay in the euro club - is their plan really to make it impossible for Tsipras to make any decision, in order to try to get a new, more malleable, government in Greece instead?

    Consider this from the Royal Bank of Scotland this morning: "We certainly cannot rule out that a Greek deal only follows after missed IMF payment, change in Greek govt composition or cap controls". 

    RELATED: Greece crunch talks resume as debt deadline looms

    Here is RBS (the same bank which almost broke the international banking system and had to be propped up by British taxpayers) actively campaigning for a deal after the Greek government is deposed and replaced.

    That is what you might call an attempt at a soft coup by Greece's creditors, against a government which was democratically elected.

    The creditors complain that they want to talk about the technical details of debt reduction, while all Tsipras wants is to go on about big politics.

    You can imagine him sitting in the room, railing against the creditors undermining the dignity of the Greek people, while they are looking at the numbers, cuts to pensions and other spending.

    It is an impossible choice for Tsipras, either to surrender to them and risk political exile at home, or walk out of Brussels with his head up, into a future which may not be in the eurozone.

    Unless, of course, the creditors engineer a new election, a new government, which is more to their liking.

    Follow Laurence Lee on Twitter: @laurielee67 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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