ATHENS – The emergence of a new center-left movement called The 58 Initiative in an attempt to bring together the disparate parties from that political spectrum has already resulted in new feuds between them.
The PASOK Socialists, who set aside their principles to become a partner in Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative Antonis Samaras’ coalition, and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) – which left it in a dispute over the firing of workers at the state broadcaster ERT that was shut down – face squabbling in the ranks over whether to come together with The 58 to coalesce the left.
That wouldn’t include the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) which opposes the austerity measures being imposed by the government, policies which have rankled some PASOK lawmakers and even some in New Democracy.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, whose party is in the 5 percent territory in the polls and would be irrelevant if he hadn’t joined the government as Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, and DIMAR chief Fotis Kouvelis, whose party is even worse off with 3 percent, are facing turmoil in their parties over what to do about The 58.
The newspaper Kathimerini said 11 of PASOK’s 27 Members of Parliament sent Venizelos a letter asking for a meeting of the party’s central political committee to be called so he could discuss with them whether to co-operate with The 58, which wants a common leftist Greek front before the critical European Parliament elections in May.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he believes those polls will repudiate New Democracy and PASOK and the government will fall in favor of his party. That would jeopardize the remaining due in a second bailout of $325 billion from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB.)
Tsipras said he wants their money but not the attached austerity measures and would try to re-do the deal or walk away from it and not pay the loans if he takes over.
Venizelos was reportedly peeved by the request because some of the 11 would-be rebels are linked to former premier and previous PASOK leader George Papandreou, who resigned in 2011 in the wake of relentless protests, strikes and riots against big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions he imposed on Troika orders.
With PASOK adrift and floundering, there’s also a rift growing in DIMAR where Party Secretary Spyros Likoudis he he’s quitting that post because he’s upset Kouvelis won’t even talk to The 58 as DIMAR is on the verge of disappearing, largely because Kouvelis too backed austerity measures that are antithetical to the party before leaving the coalition government.
“The dilemma is whether we will take a position of national responsibility and form a bulwark against bipartisanship or whether we will look to preserve ourselves at the threshold of electoral survival,” said Likoudis.