Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has defeated a bid by dissenters in his left-wing Syriza party to push for an end to bailout talks and an exit from the euro currency.
Syriza’s governing central committee early on Friday backed a proposal by Tsipras to hold an emergency party conference in September, after the talks have been concluded.
Dissenters had sought a conference earlier, pressing the government to abandon ongoing negotiations with rescue lenders.
The decision followed a dramatic 12-hour meeting by the 200-member central committee, during which party rebels appealed for Greece to return to its national currency, the drachma.
It also came hours before the main round of negotiations were due to start in Athens with a scheduled visit to the finance ministry by negotiators from the European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Stability Mechanism.
Tsipras effectively lost his majority in parliament in a vote three weeks ago, when nearly one-fourth of Syriza’s lawmakers refused to back new austerity measures. Pro-European Union opposition parties were left to save the bill and have continued to prop up Tsipras’ government.
“We have to agree that we can’t go on this way,” Tsipras told the committee members, adding that “the absurdity of this peculiar and unprecedented dualism” within the party must stop.
Far-left dissenters argue Syriza has abandoned its principles over the past six months under the country’s popular prime minister. They have openly voiced support for Greece to turn its back on the euro as its national currency.
“This country no long has democracy, but a peculiar type of totalitarianism a dictatorship of the euro,” prominent dissenter Panagiotis Lafazanis said.
Despite the heated debate, Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos, an associate professor of political science at the University of Athens, says that at the moment a party split still looks unlikely.
“Being in power has a binding effect … and (dissenters) will not want to be held responsible for a break up.”
Greece is currently negotiating the terms for a third bailout worth an some 85 billion euros (USD 93 billion) that will include a new punishing round of austerity measures heaped on a country reeling from a six-year recession and more than 25 per cent unemployment.
According to government officials, bailout negotiations must be concluded before August 20, when a debt repayment to the European Central Bank worth more than 3 billion euros is due.