Left wing nagging on Greek deal, Tsipras walks tightrope

Left wing nagging on Greek deal, Tsipras walks the line

While PM Alexis Tsipras is trying to formulate a painful list of reforms as per the loan extension deal, one of his minister and MPs are already expressing dissent.

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ΓΡΑΦΕΙ: THETOC TEAM

A prominent Greek minister defied his government's pledge to press on with some state asset sales, revealing the first open dissent within Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's coalition and highlighting the tightrope that the leftist premier must walk.

But the first crack in his left-right coalition appeared on Wednesday when Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said Athens would scrap the privatization of power producer PPC and power grid operator ADMIE, a day after Greece wrote to lenders promising not to halt sales that are underway.

Lafazanis represents the radical left wing of the ruling Syriza party that could bring down the government if it opted to rebel. There are no signs of this yet and he has so far backed down from his rhetoric on other issues after talks with the rest of the party.

Neverthelesss, Tsipras must somehow keep Lafazanis on side while implementing unpopular measures demanded by European and International Monetary Fund lenders in the coming months.

Tsipras has to sell two diametrically opposite messages simultaneously: telling lenders he is not straying from the rigid austerity underpinning the bailout while convincing his own party ranks and Greeks that it is on the way out.

"The situation is still difficult. We're going to be judged by our ability to govern and not only our competence to negotiate," Tsipras told Syriza lawmakers at a closed-door meeting, according to a government official. "We have to quickly proceed with the implementation of our programme."

Much will depend on whether Tsipras can at least hand out some tokens, such as free food stamps for the poor or avoiding home foreclosures, to his weary electorate to show that Greece has at least won some flexibility.

Underscoring the point, one Syriza lawmaker who declined to be named said: "Until now we have only been negotiating, now we need to govern."

"Everybody including people within Syriza are waiting to see how this is practically going to work," said Costas Panagopoulos of the Alco polling agency. "Are they going to ask for permission on everything? Are they going to take instructions from abroad like before the elections?"

So far the public has overwhelmingly supported Tsipras in the negotiations, and the real challenge remains keeping his own party - and the fiercely anti-bailout Independent Greeks party, his coalition ally - behind him, Panagopoulos said.

Source: Reuters

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