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Greek PM Tsipras Resigns, Calls for New Election as Left Wing of Syriza Splits to Form New Party

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation on Thursday, paving the way for new elections in which he will run. The move came after Tsipras lost the support of many members of his own Syriza party, which opposed his backing of the demands of international creditors for yet more austerity and economic reform in exchange for a new $96 billion bailout. Many analysts predict Tsipras will retain his post as prime minister after the election, but the conservative government has announced plans to try to form a new coalition government ahead of the elections. Meanwhile, 25 members of the left wing of Syriza have announced they are breaking away to form a separate party called Popular Unity. We speak to Costas Panayotakis, author of “Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation Thursday, paving the way for new elections. The move came after Tsipras lost the support of many members of his own Syriza party, which opposed his backing of the demands of international creditors for yet more austerity and economic reform in exchange for a new $96 billion bailout. Tspiras said an early election will give Greek voters a chance to have a say on the new bailout.

PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS: [translated] I would like to submit the government’s resignation, and I would like to express my belief that the constitutional processes need to be set in motion immediately so that we can go as soon as possible, and with all due civility, to elections so that the Greek people can decide in which way the country should be led safely and quickly out of the crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Many analysts predict Tsipras will retain his post as prime minister after the election, but the conservative government has announced plans to try to form a new coalition government ahead of the elections. Meanwhile, 25 members of the left wing of the Syriza party have announced they are breaking away to form a separate party called Popular Unity.

To talk more about the situation in Greece, we’re joined once again by Costas Panayotakis, author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He’s professor of sociology at NYC College of Technology at CUNY.

Welcome to Democracy Now! What is Tsipras doing here? He has resigned and going to run in a snap election.

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: Yeah. He has transformed Syriza from the main anti-austerity force in Greece to what he hopes will be the dominant party of the austerity camp. And his claim is that he wants to, even though he’s following the policies and he does not agree with them and he’s been forced to do it, that he’ll do it with a sort of—in a way that is a little more socially humane and just. And he doesn’t have a mandate for this about-turn, because there was a recent referendum in July where over 60 percent of the Greek population voted against austerity. So I think he’s also hoping to get a mandate so he can continue these policies. And a large part of his party did not support this about-turn, and that’s why we have this split, which is a split that the Europeans had hoped for all along, because they always saw Tsipras as more amenable to their policies and as more pragmatic, and they disliked the left wing of the party that is still trying to resist that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But now some of the analysts are saying, or quite a few of them, that he’s actually expected to get an even larger support for his policies in a new vote and that he chose to go the route of a referendum rather than—or new elections rather than for a vote of confidence within the Parliament itself, where he thought he had less of a chance.

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: Yeah, I think what he’s hoping—I mean, the polls in July showed that Syriza is far ahead. I mean, you know, the opposition is in disarray. And by speeding up the election, because there was also discussion that it might happen in October or November—by speeding it up, he also gives less chance to his internal opposition to organize themselves and to form a party that would have a good chance of doing well. So there are certainly certain political calculations that he made. And he clearly hopes that he will do well and win, and it’s possible that this is indeed the case.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is the sense that the Greek people, even though he did this about-face, still blame the European Union and Germany more for their troubles than they do Tsipras for caving in on some of these concessions?

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: Well, I think the anti-European and anti-German feeling has grown a lot in Greece and throughout Europe, in fact, because of this insistence on austerity policies. And there is a lot of discontent with the previous political parties, who are held as—understandably, as the main culprits for the current situation. And Tsipras is—Tsipras is still popular, according to polls, but this is partly because, you know, the full burden, the full impact of this new wave of austerity measures has not hit ordinary Greeks. So his popularity is likely to suffer in the future, and that’s probably one of his calculations.

AMY GOODMAN: Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party touts itself as the only party not selling out to—the Greek people to austerity. Do they stand to benefit from these upcoming elections? Are they getting stronger?

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: Well, that’s what they claim. They claim that they will do very well because they—supposedly, they are the only ones who haven’t betrayed the Greek people. I mean, it remains to be seen. Their last showing in January was pretty strong, given the fact that they are under charges being a criminal organization, and they have been—they’ve been exposed for the crimes and the violence they used against activists and immigrants. And there is the immigration issue, of course, is also a big issue in Greece right now. And there has been lots of attack by the opposition, not just Golden Dawn, even the conservatives and even the center-left party, who are basically saying that Syriza is leaving the borders open and all these immigrants are coming because they liberalized immigration law. So, I think this is very concerning, because it’s not just the Golden Dawn that is being very populist about the immigration issue; it’s like solidly mainstream parties that are not doing anyone a service.

AMY GOODMAN: This new party?

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: No, this—

AMY GOODMAN: No, the new party, the Syriza breakaway party, that is now calling itself Popular Unity, where does it fit into this picture, and will it gain in popularity?

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: Well, we’ll see. I mean, we have nothing to compare it to, and they haven’t had much time to, you know, prepare. But they are hoping—they are basically—their claim is that the 60 percent that voted against austerity has to be represented in the election, and that’s what they are hoping to do. How many of those 60 percent of Greeks will support them, I mean, will have to be—it remains to be seen.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, the sell-off of national assets of Greece is already occurring, right? This week, there were 15 regional airports in Greece sold to—guess what—a German company?

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: Right. And actually, you know, the whole point is that it’s supposed to be privatizations, and the German company is a company owned by—it’s a German state company. It’s kind of paradoxical in this kind of sense. And the same thing happened in the past with privatizations, like the Greek telecommunication company which was bought by Deutsche Telekom, which is also a state company.

AMY GOODMAN: So, as in Germany is buying Greece.

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS: I guess, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Costas Panayotakis, we want to thank you for being with us, author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy, professor of sociology at New York City College of Technology at CUNY, the City University of New York.

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