TIME Macedonia

Migrants Rush Macedonian Border as Chaos Separates Families

Migrants trying to get from Greece to Macedonia clashed with police

Migrants who were trying to cross from Greece into Macedonia clashed with police at the border on Wednesday, protesting the chaos that left families separated on either side of a divider.

Photographer Valdrin Xhemaj described a frenzied scene to TIME, saying police had permitted groups of 50 people at a time to cross the border into Macedonia, inadvertently splitting up some families. Amid the confusion, migrants rushed the border, trying to reconnect with relatives and friends who had already been allowed across. The blistering Mediterranean sun did little to aid the situation, Xhemaj said.

“It’s hard to attack anybody,” he said of police treatment of migrants. “They were trying to do their best.”

In one particularly heart-wrenching moment (which Xhemaj captured in slide 4 above), a young boy looked up at his father in the midst of panic. His father tried to convey a sense of confidence in the midst of the turmoil, Xhemaj said.

Wednesday’s confrontation followed earlier clashes at the Greece-Macedonia border and came as several prominent incidents involving migrants traveling to Europe has drawn attention to the brutal, and at times deadly, treatment they face.

The migrants’ trip through Greece, a member of the European Union, and into Macedonia is one of many legs en route to the promise of work in western Europe.

READ NEXT: Stranded Migrants Turn Budapest Into Choke Point Of Refugee Crisis

TIME Greece

Large Numbers of Refugees Landed on Greek Shores Overnight

Refugees and migrants carry belongings while boarding passenger ship "Tera Jet" heading to port of Piraeus, at port on island of Lesbos
Dimitris Michalakis—Reuters Refugees and migrants carry their belongings while boarding the passenger ship Tera Jet heading to the port of Piraeus, on the Greek island of Lesbos, on Sept. 1, 2015

Officials insist Greece lacks the means to cope

A ferry carrying 1,749 refugees and migrants docked in Piraeus, 7 miles south of Athens, on Tuesday night; 2,500 more were expected to arrive on Wednesday morning, the BBC reports

The new arrivals will continue to put pressure on Greece, which state officials insist lacks the means to cope.

Of the 160,000 migrants who have landed on Greek shores thus far this year, 23,000 arrived last week alone, prompting President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to reach out to his fellow European leaders for assistance, the BBC says.

Greece is a major terminal for refugees from the Middle East, who frequently begin their journeys across Europe after arriving via ferry at ports near Athens or other Greek cities. A large percentage of them comes from Syria, where a massive civil war has raged since 2011.

The influx has rattled Europe’s leaders. In an interview with the Singaporean press in early August, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond controversially remarked that the tide of displaced peoples arriving on the continent’s shores threatened to seriously disturb the standards and stability of European life.

[BBC]

TIME Greece

Greece’s Radical Ex-Finance Minister on Past, Present and Future of Greece

Yanis Varoufakis at a news conference following a Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg on June 18, 2015.
Jasper Juinen—Bloomberg via Getty Images Yanis Varoufakis at a news conference following a Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg on June 18, 2015.

Yanis Varoufakis answers questions from 9 leading academics on Greece and Europe

When Yanis Varoufakis was elected to parliament and then named as Greek finance minister in January, he embarked on an extraordinary seven months of negotiations with the country’s creditors and its European partners.

On July 6, Greek voters backed his hardline stance in a referendum, with a resounding 62% voting No to the European Union’s ultimatum. On that night, he resigned, after prime minister Alexis Tsipras, fearful of an ugly exit from the eurozone, decided to go against the popular verdict. Since then, the governing party, Syriza, has splintered and a snap election has been called. Varoufakis remains a member of parliament and a prominent voice in Greek and European politics.

When asked about Tsipras’s decision to trigger a snap election, inviting the Greek public to issue their judgement on his time in office, Varoufakis said:

If only that were so! Voters are being asked to endorse Alexis Tsipras’ decision, on the night of their majestic referendum verdict, to overturn it; to turn their courageous No into a capitulation, on the grounds that honouring that verdict would trigger a Grexit. This is not the same as calling on the people to pass judgement on a record of steadfast opposition to a failed economic programme doing untold damage to Greece’s social economy. It is rather a plea to voters to endorse him, and his choice to surrender, as a lesser evil.

The Conversation asked nine leading academics what their questions were for a man who describes himself as an “accidental economist”. His answers reveal regrets about his own approach during a dramatic 2015, a withering assessment of France’s power in Europe, fears for the future of Syriza, a view that Syriza is now finished, and doubts over how effective Jeremy Corbyn could be as leader of Britain’s Labour party.


Anton Muscatelli, University of GlasgowWhy was Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras persuaded to accept the EU’s pre-conditions around the third bailout discussions despite a decisive referendum victory for the No campaign; and is this the end of the road for the anti-austerity wing of Syriza in Greece?

Varoufakis: Tsipras’ answer is that he was taken aback by official Europe’s determination to punish Greek voters by putting into action German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s plan to push Greece out of the eurozone, redenominate Greek bank deposits in a currency that was not even ready, and even ban the use of euros in Greece. These threats, independently of whether they were credible or not, did untold damage to the European Union’s image as a community of nations and drove a wedge through the axiom of the eurozone’s indivisibility.

As you probably have heard, on the night of the referendum, I disagreed with Tsipras on his assessment of the credibility of these threats and resigned as finance minister. But even if I was wrong on the issue of the credibility of the troika’s threats, my great fear was, and remains, that our party, Syriza, would be torn apart by the decision to implement another self-defeating austerity program of the type that we were elected to challenge. It is now clear that my fears were justified.


Roy Bailey, University of EssexWas the surprise referendum of July 5 conceived as a threat point for the ongoing bargaining between Greece and its creditors and has the last year caused you to adjust how you think about Game Theory?

Varoufakis: I shall have to disappoint you Roy {Editor’s note: Roy Bailey taught Varoufakis at Essex and advised on his PhD}. As I wrote in a New York Times op-ed, Game Theory was never relevant. It applies to interactions where motives are exogenous and the point is to work out the optimal bluffing strategies and credible threats, given available information. Our task was different: it was to persuade the “other” side to change their motivation vis-à-vis Greece.

I represented a small, suffering nation in its sixth straight year of deep recession. Bluffing with our people’s fate would be irresponsible. So I did not. Instead, we outlined that which we thought was a reasonable position, consistent with our creditors’ own interests. And then we stood our ground. When the troika pushed us into a corner, presenting me with an ultimatum on June 25 just before closing Greece’s banking system down, we looked at it carefully and concluded that we had neither a mandate to accept it (given that it was economically non-viable) nor to decline it (and clash with official Europe). Instead we decided to do something terribly radical: to put it to the Greek people to decide.

Lastly, on a theoretical point, the “threat point” in your question refers to John Nash’s bargaining solution which is based on the axiom of non-conflict between the parties. Tragically, we did not have the luxury to make that assumption.


Cristina Flesher Fominaya, University of AberdeenThe dealings between Greece and the EU seemed more like a contest between democracy and the banks, than a negotiation between the EU and a member state. Given the outcome, are there any lessons that you would take from this for other European parties resisting the imperatives of austerity politics?

Varoufakis: Allow me to phrase this differently. It was a contest between the right of creditors to govern a debtor nation and the democratic right of the said nation’s citizens to be self-governed. You are quite right that there was never a negotiation between the EU and Greece as a member state of the EU. We were negotiating with the troika of lenders, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and a wholly weakened European Commission in the context of an informal grouping, the Eurogroup, lacking specific rules, without minutes of the proceedings, and completely under the thumb of one finance minister and the troika of lenders.

Moreover, the troika was terribly fragmented, with many contradictory agendas in play, the result being that the “terms of surrender” they imposed upon us were, to say the least, curious: a deal imposed by creditors determined to attach conditions which guarantee that we, the debtor, cannot repay them. So, the main lesson to be learned from the last few months is that European politics is not even about austerity. Or that, as Nicholas Kaldor wrote in The New Statesman in 1971, any attempt to construct a monetary union before a political union ends up with a terrible monetary system that makes political union much, much harder. Austerity and a hideous democratic deficit are mere symptoms.


Panicos Demetriades, University of LeicesterDid you ever think that your message was being diluted or becoming noisy, or even incoherent, by giving so many interviews?

Varoufakis: Yes. I have regretted several interviews, especially when the journalists involved took liberties that I had not anticipated. But let me also add that the “noise” would have prevailed even if I granted far fewer interviews. Indeed the media game was fixed against our government, and me personally, in the most unexpected and repulsive way. Wholly moderate and technically sophisticated proposals were ignored while the media concentrated on trivia and distortions. Giving interviews where I would, to some extent, control the content was my only outlet. Faced with an intentionally “noisy” media agenda that bordered on character assassination, I erred on the side of over-exposure.


Simon Wren-Lewis, University of OxfordMight it have been possible for a forceful France to have provided an effective counterweight to Germany in the Eurogroup, or did Germany always have a majority on its side?

Varoufakis: The French government feels that it has a weak hand. Its deficit is persistently within the territory of the so-called excessive deficit procedure of the European Commission, which puts Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, and France’s previous finance minister, in the difficult position of having to act tough on Paris under the watchful eye of Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister.

It is also true, as you say, that the Eurogroup is completely “stitched up” by Schäuble. Nevertheless, France had an opportunity to use the Greek crisis in order to change the rules of a game that France will never win. The French government has, thus, missed a major opportunity to render itself sustainable within the single currency. The result, I fear, is that Paris will soon be facing a harsher regime, possibly a situation where the president of the Eurogroup is vested with draconian veto powers over the French government’s national budget. How long, once this happens, can the European Union survive the resurgence of nasty nationalism in places like France?


Kamal Munir, University of CambridgeYou often implied that what went on in your meetings with the troika (the IMF, ECB and European Commission) was economics only on the surface. Deep down, it was a political game being played. Don’t you think we are doing a disservice to our students by teaching them a brand of economics that is so clearly detached from this reality?

Varoufakis: If only some economics were to surface in our meetings with the troika, I would be happy! None did.

Even when economic variables were discussed, there was never any economic analysis. The discussions were exhausted at the level of rules and agreed targets. I found myself talking at cross-purposes with my interlocutors. They would say things like: “The rules on the primary surplus specify that yours should be at least 3.5% of GDP in the medium term.” I would try to have an economic discussion suggesting that this rule ought to be amended because, for example, the 3.5% primary target for 2018 would depress growth today, boost the debt-to-GDP ratio immediately and make it impossible to achieve the said target by 2018.

Such basic economic arguments were treated like insults. Once I was accused of “lecturing” them on macroeconomics. On your pedagogical question: while it is true that we teach students a brand of economics that is designed to be blind to really-existing capitalism, the fact remains that no type of sophisticated economic thinking, not even neoclassical economics, can reach the parts of the Eurogroup which make momentous decisions behind closed doors.


Mariana Mazzucato, University of SussexHow has the crisis in Greece (its cause and its effects) revealed failings of neoclassical economic theory at both the micro and the macro level?

Varoufakis: The uninitiated may be startled to hear that the macroeconomic models taught at the best universities feature no accumulated debt, no involuntary unemployment and, indeed, no money (with relative prices reflecting a form of barter). Save perhaps for a few random shocks that demand and supply are assumed to quickly iron out, the snazziest models taught to the brightest of students assume that savings automatically turn into productive investment, leaving no room for crises.

It makes it hard when these graduates come face-to-face with reality. They are at a loss, for example, when they see German savings that permanently outweigh German investmentwhile Greek investment outweighs savings during the “good times” (before 2008) but collapses to zero during the crisis.

Moving to the micro level, the observation that, in the case of Greece, real wages fell by 40%but employment dropped precipitously, while exports remained flat, illustrates in Technicolor how useless a microeconomics approach bereft of macro foundations truly is.


Tim Bale, Queen Mary University of LondonDo you see any similarities between yourself and Jeremy Corbyn, who looks like he might win the (UK) Labour leadership, and do you think a left-wing populist party is capable of winning an election under a first-past-the-post system?

Varoufakis: The similarity that I feel at liberty to mention is that Corbyn and I, probably, coincided at many demonstrations against the Tory government while I lived in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, and share many views regarding the calamity that befell working Britons as power shifted from manufacturing to finance. However, all other comparisons must be kept in check.

Syriza was a radical party of the Left that scored a little more than 4% of the vote in 2009. Our incredible rise was due to the collapse of the political “centre” caused by popular discontent at a Great Depression due to a single currency that was never designed to sustain a global crisis, and by the denial of the powers-that-be that this was so.

The much greater flexibility that the Bank of England afforded to Gordon Brown’s and David Cameron’s British governments prevented the type of socio-economic implosion that led Syriza to power and, in this sense, a similarly buoyant radical left party is most unlikely in Britain. Indeed, the Labour Party’s own history, and internal dynamic, will, I am sure, constrain a victorious Jeremy Corbyn in a manner alien to Syriza.

Turning to the first-past-the-post system, had it applied here in Greece, it would have given our party a crushing majority in parliament. It is, therefore, untrue that Labour’s electoral failures are due to this system.

Lastly, allow me to urge caution with the word “populist”. Syriza did not put to Greek voters a populist agenda. “Populists” try to be all things to all people. Our promised benefits extended only to those earning less than £500 per month. If it wants to be popular, Labour cannot afford to be populist either.


Mark Taylor, University of WarwickWould you agree that Greece does not fulfil the criteria for successful membership of a currency union with the rest of Europe? Wouldn’t it be better if they left now rather than simply papering over the cracks and waiting for another Greek economic crisis to occur in a few years’ time?

Varoufakis: The eurozone’s design was such that even France and Italy could not thrive within it. Under the current institutional design only a currency union east of the Rhine and north of the Alps would be sustainable. Alas, it would constitute a union useless to Germany, as it would fail to protect it from constant revaluation in response to its trade surpluses.

Now, if by “criteria” you meant the Maastricht limits, it is of course clear that Greece did not fulfil them. But then again nor did Italy or Belgium. Conversely, Spain and Ireland did meet the criteria and, indeed, by 2007 the Madrid and Dublin governments were registering deficit, debt and inflation numbers that, according to the official criteria, were better than Germany’s. And yet when the crisis hit, Spain and Ireland sunk into the mire. In short, the eurozone was badly designed for everyone. Not just for Greece.

So should we cut our losses and get out? To answer properly we need to grasp the difference between saying that Greece, and other countries, should not have entered the eurozone, and saying now that we should now exit. Put technically, we have a case of hysteresis: once a nation has taken the path into the eurozone, that path disappeared after the euro’s creation and any attempt to reverse along that, now non-existent, path could lead to a great fall off a tall cliff.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Greece

Greece Appoints Its First Female Prime Minister

Supreme Court head Vassiliki Thanou, 65, was appointed

(ATHENS, Greece) — Greece’s first female prime minister, a top judge, was sworn in Thursday to head a caretaker government ahead of early elections next month in the bailout-dependent country.

Supreme Court head Vassiliki Thanou, 65, was appointed after radical left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned, seeking a stronger mandate to implement tough austerity measures demanded by Greece’s creditors in return for a third bailout worth 86 billion euro ($97 billion).

Her main task will be to hold the reins until a new government emerges from the vote expected on Sept. 20.

“But, given the circumstances … I believe that this government will also have to handle crucial matters,” Thanou said in her first public comments in office, singling out for mention Greece’s immigration crisis.

Since January, the financially struggling country has received more than 160,000 mainly Syrian refugees and economic migrants — a record number — who arrive in boats from Turkey before heading to wealthier European countries.

Tsipras was forced to step down last week, barely seven months into his four-year term, following a rebellion in his radical left Syriza party over his agreement to the new income cuts and tax hikes.

Syriza hardliners were furious that Tsipras signed the deal with even harsher terms than those he had vowed to abolish when he was elected in January. The deal was approved with support from pro-European opposition parties, who now accuse him of rushing to call elections before voters are hit by the full force of the new tax measures.

The 41-year-old outgoing prime minister has argued he was left with no choice but to accept European creditors’ demands, to save Greece from defaulting on its debts and being forced out of the euro currency it shares with another 18 European nations.

Thanou will appoint a Cabinet that will be sworn in on Friday, when the election date will be formally confirmed.

Greek President Procopis Pavlopoulos announced her appointment after parliament’s three largest parties failed to find willing coalition partners. The last to hold the mandate to form a government was former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who created the new Popular Unity party last week after splitting from Syriza.

Greece has relied on funds from two bailouts by other European countries and the International Monetary Fund totaling nearly 240 billion euros ($270 billion) since 2010. In return for the loans, successive governments imposed deeply resented spending cuts that slashed incomes by more than a third, deepened a dire recession and pushed unemployment well over 25 percent.

The second bailout expired earlier this year, and Tsipras insisted he could negotiate a better deal for his country. But the talks with creditors floundered and eventually collapsed in June, with Tsipras calling a referendum and urging Greeks to vote against creditor demands. They overwhelmingly did so, but the prime minister eventually signed up to even stricter demands in return for the third, three-year rescue loan agreement.

Despite his about-face on policies, Tsipras is expected to win the next election although it’s unclear whether he will secure enough parliamentary seats to govern alone. He has ruled out a coalition with any of the centrist opposition parties: center-right New Democracy, the socialist PASOK party or the small centrist To Potami party.

Unless other smaller parties manage to enter Parliament, that would leave his current coalition partner, the nationalist Independent Greeks — which, however, may struggle to cross the 3 percent parliamentary threshold.

Tsipras is not expected to form a government with the new Popular Unity party, the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn, whose leader and lawmakers still face criminal charges, or the communist KKE party.

TIME Macedonia

Thousands of Refugees Are Now Expected to Arrive in Macedonia Every Day

The influx has already been described as Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II

As many as 3,000 refugees, largely from war-torn Syria, will arrive in the small Balkan nation of Macedonia every day in the coming months on a northbound journey deeper into Europe, the UNHCR says.

“They are coming in large groups of 300 to 400 people and then traveling onwards by train or bus to Serbia,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said during a press conference, Reuters reports.

Fleming said that the migrants are largely spurred by overcrowded conditions in refugee camps in the Middle East. “People are leaving Turkey, they are leaving Jordan, they are leaving Lebanon and Syrians are fleeing directly out of Syria as the situation continues to be very dire.”

The scale of the migration is already at record-breaking levels, with over 107,500 arriving in Europe in July alone. The numbers for this year so far, at around 340,000, are peaking well above the total number that arrived in Europe last year. Already, at least 2,373 people have died trying to make the precarious cross over the Mediterranean Sea, the International Organization of Migration told Reuters.

E.U. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said last week that Europe was now facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II, the Telegraph reported.

The sheer scale of the influx has proved difficult to manage for local authorities. Riots have broken out on the Greek island of Kos and in Macedonia, with Macedonian police firing off tear gas to control crowds.

European officials are hopeful that numbers will be managed effectively in the coming months, as the flow of migrants shows no sign of stopping. A spike in resources and a greater willingness from countries in the European Union to accept more refugees will help mitigate the crisis, Fleming said, according to Reuters.

[Reuters]

TIME Greece

Photographer Shows Children Caught in Clash at the Greek Border

Migrant children crying macedonia greek border
Georgi Licovski—EPA Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Aug. 21, 2015. Macedonian police clashed with thousands of migrants attempting to break into the country after being stranded in no-man's land overnight, marking an escalation of the European refugee crisis for the Balkan country.

Hundreds of migrants tried to cross to Macedonia on Friday

Correction appended, Aug. 21, 2015

Hundreds of migrants trying to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia clashed with police lines on Friday, just a day after Macedonia declared a state of emergency and closed the border. Photographer Georgi Licovski captured this image of distressed children pushed against the police line and crush of bodies.

“For the first time in my life I saw my colleagues—photographers and journalists—crying because of the situation,” Licovski told TIME after spending the day taking pictures at the border. He added that it was also the first time he has cried while working.

When the Macedonian government allowed some migrants to cross into the country near the southern city of Gevgelija, people flocked to the passageway and tried to press through after the crossing was sealed once more. Macedonian police fired tear gas and stun grenades to subdue the crowd, the Guardian reports. The migrants tried to cross into Macedonia after being stranded in a no-man’s land.

Licovski said there were a lot of babies, children and mothers in the crowd, and that many families were split up in the throng that pressed people to the ground. He added, “It was really terrible, really terrible.”

Correction: The original version of the story misstated the name of the photographer whose image is featured. He is Georgi Licovski.

TIME Macedonia

Macedonian Troops Fire Stun Grenades at Migrants

Macedonia migrants refugees
Alexandros Avramidis—Reuters Migrants confront Macedonian police during clashes at the Greek-Macedonian border, on Aug. 21, 2015.

At least eight people were injured in the melee

(IDOMENI, Greece) — Macedonian special police forces fired stun grenades Friday to disperse thousands of migrants stuck on a no-man’s land with Greece, a day after declaring a state of emergency on its borders to deal with a massive influx of migrants heading north to the European Union.

The crowd of 3,000 migrants who spent the night out in the open made several attempts Friday to charge Macedonian police after the border was shut to crossings the previous day. At least eight people were injured in the melee, according to Greek police. One youngster was bleeding from what appeared to be shrapnel from the stun grenades that were fired directly into the crowd.

Police backed by armored vehicles spread coils of razor wire over rail tracks used by migrants to cross on foot from Greece to Macedonia.

Greece has seen an unprecedented wave of migrants this year, the vast majority fleeing war and conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, crossing clandestinely to its islands from the nearby Turkish coast, with more than 160,000 arriving so far. The influx has overwhelmed Greek authorities, particularly on the islands, many of which are small tourist destinations unequipped to deal with mass arrivals of refugees.

Few, if any, of the migrants arriving want to remain in Greece, a country in the grip of a financial crisis. The vast majority head straight to the country’s northern border with Macedonia, from where they cram onto trains and head north through Serbia and Hungary on their way to the more prosperous European north and countries such Germany, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia.

Macedonian police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said Thursday that both police and the army would control the 50-kilometer (30 mile) border stretch to stop a “massive” influx of migrants coming from Greece.

“This measure is being introduced for the security of citizens who live in the border areas and for better treatment of the migrants,” he said.

Until now, the border has been porous, with only a few patrols on each side. Sealing it disrupts the Balkan corridor for migrants who start in Turkey, take boats to Greece or walk to Bulgaria, then make their way through Macedonia or Serbia heading north to the EU.

Almost 39,000 migrants, most of them Syrians, have registered as passing through Macedonia over the past month, double the number from the month before.

And hundreds arrive each day on Greek islands. The Greek coast guard said Friday it had picked up 620 people in 15 search-and-rescue operations in the last 24 hours off the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Agathonissi, Leros, Farmakonissi, Kos and Megisti. That doesn’t include the hundreds more migrants who manage to make their own way to the islands in inflatable dinghies.

____

Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed

TIME Greece

Why Snap Elections In Greece Are Smart Bet For Teflon Tsipras

The politician of twists and turns has broken most of his campaign promises. But he'll still likely win when polls are held next month

It’s one of the most basic rules of electoral politics—keep your campaign promises or you will lose the support of your voters—but Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has deftly managed to skirt that rule. On Thursday, when he announced that he will resign and call snap elections for September 20, Tsipras wagered that voters would stay behind him regardless of the fact that he has failed to keep most of his core campaign pledges. And he is probably right.

At the end of July—after he had abandoned hopes of shielding the Greek welfare state from further cuts and austerity measures—Tsipras’ approval rating was still at a comfortable 60% in all the major polls. Even now he is comfortably ahead of any other political leader in the country, and his move on Thursday to call elections is intended to lock in that support.

He’s going to need it. Under the terms of the bailout deal that Tsipras secured this week, Greece will receive around $95.2 billion in foreign loans in order to avoid bankruptcy over the next three years. But as a condition of providing this lifeline, Greece’s troika of creditors—the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—insisted on a new set of painful reforms for the Greek economy.

Those reforms will give Greek voters plenty of reasons to resent their government. They will see tax hikes, pension reductions and deep cuts to their health and social welfare systems. For many Greeks this will feel like a betrayal, because they elected Tsipras in January on a promise to avoid exactly these types of measures. His radical left-wing political party, Syriza, had based its campaign on a pledge to end austerity and preserve the social safety net. Instead, Tsirpas accepted some of the harshest bailout terms Greece has ever faced from its creditors.

That has resulted in a mutiny within his party. About a dozen of its more radical leftists announced last week that they would split off to form a new anti-bailout movement. “The fight against the new [bailout] Memorandum starts now, by mobilizing people in every corner of the country,” said the statement from Panagiotos Lafazanis, the leader of the far-left wing of the Syriza party.

But even if their splinter group takes some votes away from Syriza, it will not be enough to challenge the party’s lead in the polls. At the end of last month, Syriza’s approval numbers were above 40%, far ahead of the closest challenger, and at this point, that popularity seems to derive much more from the party’s leader than its anti-austerity bona fides.

Throughout his seven months of intense negotiations with the creditors, Tsipras has channeled the Greek sense of victimhood to blame the troika for all of his failures at the negotiating table. He blamed the troika for forcing Greece to close its banks at the end of June in order to save them from running out of money. He blamed Germany for trying to push Greece out of the European currency union. After each failure to win concessions from the troika, he went on TV to convince the Greek public that he had done the best he could. And it always seemed to work. “We know that no one is behind Tsipras pulling his strings,” said Julie Bagietakou, a social worker in Athens, even after her Prime Minister failed to win any debt relief for Greece in July. “We trust him to do what’s right for the people.”

For her, as for many Greeks, Tsipras’s appeal came from being a new face in Greek politics, not beholden to the establishment parties that had ruled the country for decades before he came to power in January. One irony of his tenure is that Tsipras has increasingly relied on these establishment parties in parliament in recent weeks to approve the new bailout deal even when his own Syriza comrades refused to vote for it.

Those dissenters are now set to break away from the party and go it alone, leaving Tsipras to drift ever further toward the mainstream center-left of Greek politics. After the snap elections, he may need to form a coalition with some of the establishment forces that he claimed to despise less than a year ago. It would be yet another U-turn in a premiership defined by little else. But his core supporters will likely forgive him, as they have so many times already in his short time in office.

TIME Greece

Greek Prime Minister Resigns, Calls Early Election

Alexis Tsipras will reportedly step down before snap election due to be held Sept. 20

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is going to call for a new election to be held September 20, according to multiple media reports.

Tsipras announced his resignation Thursday.

An English translation of the tweet reads: Soon I will travel to the President of the Republic to submit my resignation and the resignation of the government. #Greece

The New York Times reports that an interim government will be put in place after Tsipras steps down until the snap election is held.

Tsipras had been expected to call for a confidence vote as his leftwing Syriza party was split over the terms of a $95 billion bailout deal with its European creditors, with many lawmakers voting against the bailout. The German parliament approved the bailout Wednesday, and Greece made a bond payment due Thursday.

 

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