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Europe

Greece to face new election after EU resumes bailout programme

media Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in the Greek parliament Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to resign next Thursday and an early election should take place on 20 September, a government spokesperson said Thursday. Earlier Athens repaid 3.4 billion euros, part of its debt to the European Central Bank, effectively starting its third bailout package.

Earlier in the week EU finance ministers gave the final green light for Athens to start repaying its debts after eurozone ministers formally approved the loans-for-reforms package of up to 86 billion euros.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

This unblocked a first payment of 23 billion euros came once the bailout was approved by EU parliaments, including Germany's Bundestag.

Greece’s politicians are fighting a revolt from the left wing of the ruling Syriza Party, Left Platform, which opposes the new austerity measures needed to continue the bailout programme.

Tsipras "thinks that with early elections he may be able to prevent his adversaries in the party to form a new political left-wing entity,” says Charanbos Thardanibis, the director of the Institute for International Economic Relations in Athens.

“And those elections will be held before new austerity measures become effective.”

Tharndanibis was not surprised that Tsipras was thinking of calling snap elections.

“He is always taking gambles, we know that. Since he became premier in January 2015. But now he thinks that he can win an absolute majority because the opposition is not very organised and he thinks that they will not be able to confront him.”

Although 60 per cent of voters opposed stricter austerity measures in a referendum in June, it does not mean they want to leave Europe, says Thradanibis.

“Many no votes came from former [ruling socialist] Pasok supporters who now may be voting for Tsipras,” he adds.

“Even in spite of all the U-turns, Tsipras is still the most popular political personality in the Greek potlical spectrum.”

The resumption of the bailout programme wouldn’t have been possible without the support of European parliaments, most importantly the German Bundestag.

On Wednesday German MPs voted 453–113 in favour of supporting Greece, with 63 of the votes against coming from came from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union.

“It is a disadvantage for a party if they have a split vote in particular if the coalition parties have a uniform vote,” says Wolfgang Renzsch, a political scientist with the University of Magdenburg.

“There has been quite a strong pressure on parliamentarians to act with discipline. I am surprised that the number has been so large, in particular since now we have a kind of sensible solution for Greece."

But the vote in parliament does not reflect German public opinion, he argues.

“There is a populist tendency that wants less Europe and there is a much better-informed and better argued position saying that we need to deepen the integration," he explains. “That is not very popular at the moment because the Germans feel 'We have to pay for the other ones', which is not true, because the Germans get a lot of money from the EU.”

The Greek debate in Germany won’t affect Merkel's "very strong" political position, says Renzsch, and far-right parties don’t play a role of significance in Germany.

“No part in society will really support something like the Front National in France. We do have some Eurosceptics, also in the Christian Democratic Union, but in the end they won’t be important, particularly because the political class is still in favour of Europe, although there is a dispute as to how far it should go in the end.”

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