Greece’s divided Syriza party agrees to emergency meet

Prime Minister Tsipras requests extraordinary congress in September amid a deepening rift within ruling party.

Alexis Tsipras
Tsipras warned this week that early elections would have to be called if the resistance from Syriza hardliners continued [AP]

Greece’s ruling Syriza party, deeply divided over the reforms needed to secure a new international bailout, has agreed to hold an emergency congress in September as requested by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

A majority of the party’s 201-strong central committee voted in favour of holding the extraordinary congress at a late evening meeting in Athens on Thursday, central committee member Costas Zachariades told the AFP news agency.

More than a dozen central committee members resigned after the meeting, he added, in the latest sign of a deepening rift within the party’s far-left camp.

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An exact date has yet to be set for the September gathering, which is meant to determine the government’s strategy and preserve party unity after the bailout talks prompted a rebellion among some Syriza lawmakers.

Tsipras has come under pressure from a sizeable minority of Syriza members, who say the tough agreement he signed with international creditors on July 13 goes against the government’s anti-austerity promises.

Over 30 Syriza lawmakers this month refused to vote for reforms needed for a new three-year bailout in two separate votes, forcing Tsipras to rely on the backing of opposition MPs to get the measures through parliament.

The Greek prime minister on Wednesday warned early elections would have to be called if the resistance from Syriza hardliners continued.

Addressing the central committee meeting ahead of the vote, the 41-year-old premier earlier on Thursday urged members “to share the political responsibility for the unity of Syriza”.

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“In our party, there are no lesser and greater leftists, lesser and greater revolutionaries,” he said.

“If the goal is not common, there is no sense in coexisting,” he added, raising the prospect of a split in the party.

The vote came as representatives of Greece’s official creditors — the IMF, European Commission, European Central Bank, and the European Stability Mechanism — began meetings in Athens to prepare the proposed new 86 billion euro ($94bn) bailout programme for the country.

Greece has signed up to tax hikes, a pension overhaul and privatisations in return for the deal, but Tsipras has argued that many of the unpopular cuts can be neutralised with growth and poverty-supporting measures.

Source: AFP