The election and back-slapping are over and Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras has to buckle down and impose harsh reforms or fail, world press reports say.
Tsipras Says Hard Work Awaits on Reforms, Debt Relief
Reuters/Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas
Greece needs to move swiftly to pass a first lender review of economic reforms in coming weeks and to start debt negotiations, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday, urging his new ministers to work more and chat less.
The firebrand leftist cemented his position as Greece’s dominant political figure on Sunday in national elections in which his Syriza party won 145 of 300 parliamentary seats.
But he faces a tough start to his second term in office, implementing austerity mandated by creditors while seeking debt relief and coping with waves of refugees landing on Greece’s shores that have put the country on at the front line of the largest migration flows Europe has seen since World War Two.
He may also need to work harder than he hoped to maintain what promises to be a volatile coalition between Syriza and the right-wing Independent Greeks party, which won 10 seats.
Independent Greeks lawmaker Dimitris Kammenos resigned as deputy infrastructure and transport minister on Wednesday hours after his appointment due to allegations – which he denied – that he posted anti-Semitic and homophobic comments online.
“This mandate is translated into one word; work,” Tsipras told the first meeting of his cabinet.
It features most of the faces from the Tsipras government that held power for seven months until he called snap elections in August, including Euclid Tsakalotos, an Oxford-trained Marxist economist who built up a relationship of trust with lenders in negotiating the bailout agreement.
The charismatic Tsipras also told his 44-member cabinet: “I chose you as ministers to govern, and solve people’s problems. Not to be on early morning TV chat shows.”
Greece’s Democratic Crisis, Fundamental Need for Change
Huffington Post/Marco Vicenzino
As Alexis Tsipras embarks on his second mandate as prime minister, deep uncertainty still dominates the Hellenic landscape. Serious questions persist about Tsipras’ ability to deliver what is required to keep Greece in the eurozone and ensure its long-term economic survival.
Furthermore, it must be asked whether Tsipras actually has a real mandate at all, despite an apparent “big” electoral win on September 20th.
The cornerstone of Tsipras’ supposed mandate is to implement what European creditors largely dictated to him in the form of Greece’s third bailout.
Within six months, Tsipras went from utter defiance of Europe to complete compliance. In his first electoral victory, he claimed a popular mandate demanding a better deal for Greece from creditors.
Not only did Tsipras fail the Greek people miserably, he performed a complete reversal. Now in his second term, Tsipras must carry out Europe’s instructions. His flexibility is extremely limited. The chances that Tsipras may fail Europe, and Greece for a second time, still remain quite high.
Furthermore, the full extent of the damage inflicted by Tsipras on the Greek economy during his first mandate has yet to be fully assessed in earnest. It may eventually prove too extensive, permanent and irreversible. Thus, rendering futile any current attempt by Tsipras to salvage the Greek economy and preventing Greece’s exit from the eurozone.
According to the bailout, the new Tsipras government must undertake the mammoth task of passing dozens of reforms before year’s end.
These include unpopular measures such as tax increases and pension reform. Essentially, Tsipras is in a race with time, which is currently not on his side. The odds are stacked against him. The first review by creditors of Greece’s performance will take place in October.
For Tsipras, a key advantage is that his core team of bailout negotiators remains intact. It is now occupying the key ministries critical to bailout implementation.
However, broader endemic ineptitude still prevails in Syriza’s ranks, which can easily resurface. In addition, radical elements opposed to the bailout are still active in Syriza despite the departure of many far-leftists. One cannot rule out their continued defiance, pressure or attempts to derail, or at least complicate, the bailout’s implementation.
Any further attempts at grandstanding or stonewalling by the new Tsipras government will incur Europe’s wrath.
Greece Must Quickly Implement Bailout Deal
Speaking at his first cabinet meeting since Sunday’s election, Tsipras said, “We face the obligation to quickly implement what has been agreed.” He told his ministers that he hoped to have Greece out of the crisis by the end of his four-year term.
“We are aware of the difficult points of the deal…we know how to find the right antidote where there are side effects,” Tsipras said on Friday.
His strategies included addressing debt restructuring, which would “make our economy once again attractive to investors” and a recapitalization of Greece banks, which “if done correctly, can give our economy badly needed liquidity,” Tsipras told his ministers.
Greece’s previous government, also led by Tsipras, agreed to a tough set of reforms in August , including ending tax breaks, pension and labor reforms and privatizations, in return for a loan of 86 billion euros ($96 billion) from the EU.
Around 25 billion euros have been set aside to strengthen the capital of banks that have suffered from deposit flight over the past six years.
Tsipras also addressed the refugee crisis, which has particularly impacted the Greek islands of Kos and Lesbos, which have become main points of entry into Europe for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
“We have to decide what Europe we want…Do we want a Europe of solidarity or one which throws teargas showing people its hard side?” Tsipras asked.