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Greek PM Tsipras resigns and calls early elections

FRANCE 24 screen grab
3 min

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned from his post on Thursday calling for new elections, as the embattled but still popular leader attempted to quell dissent within his own ruling hard-left government.

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Facing an internal party revolt over his embrace of more austerity measures in return for a third massive international bailout, Tsipras is hoping to strengthen his hold on power.

“During these difficult times we must hold onto, and champion, what matters most – our country and democracy,” he said in a speech on national television.

The charismatic leader submitted his resignation to President Prokopis Pavlopoulos Thursday evening, saying the mandate he won in January had come to an end.

Tsipras said he wanted a snap election as soon as possible, with government sources saying earlier that his aim was to schedule the poll for September 20.

The vote move comes after debt-crippled Greece paid a huge debt to the ECB on Thursday, effectively starting a new mammoth bailout, expected to cost as much as 86 billion euros over the next three years.

Commission welcomes move

Earlier, the European Commission, one of the institutions overseeing the new rescue package, welcomed the news that Tsipras was stepping down, saying it would politically bolster the just launched bailout, Greece's third in five years.

"Swift elections in Greece can be a way to broaden support for ESM [European Stability Mechanism] stability support programme just signed by Prime Minister Tsipras on behalf of Greece," tweeted Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, referring to the EU bailout fund.

The election would be the second in eight months.

The leader of Greece’s conservative New Democracy party Vangelis Meimarakis said he would seek meetings with other political parties in a bid to form a new government following Tsipras’ resignation.

Tsipras 'fooling Greek people'?

Greece’s constitution stipulates that the president should give major opposition parties three days to try to form a new parliamentary majority if elections are called less than 12 months after the previous vote.

Meimarakis accused Tsipras of deceiving Greek citizens as well as the rest of Europe.

“He is a bit of a fibber. He might be likeable, but he is a bit cunning,” he said at a news conference Thursday evening. "I feel he is fooling the Greek people, his comrades, and the Europeans.”

Tsipras is also likely to face verbal attacks from the political left, including from members of his own governing Syriza party.

Tsipras suffered an unprecedented setback in parliament one week ago, with 43 of 149 MPs in the governing Syriza party choosing to either oppose or abstain from the latest wave of creditor-demanded austerity.

Greek stocks fell on Thursday in the face of the political uncertainty, down 3.5 percent. Frankfurt and Paris were down by 2 percent.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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