August 2, 2015
Last Thursday the Central Committee of Syriza convened to discuss over the preparation of an extraordinary or permanent party congress. As simple as this decision might sound, the discussions and speeches had a deeply disappointing tone with regards to the development of the bailout talks and the government policy on this issue so far. Notwithstanding, there are few conclusions that we have come though.
Conclusion No. 1: All sides are right
Just after the agreement reached in the Euro Summit on July 13, Syriza members disappointment became huge and, to some extent, uncontrollable. This mood was also reflected in the rejection of prior actions by more than 1/5 of Syriza MPs in the Parliament. On the party side, the Left Platform and other internal alliances that cannot accept a new bailout started to fiercely criticizing the Greek government and PM Tsipras for having capitulated to creditors’ demands and betrayed the program and policy plan of the party. After couple of weeks of debates and reflections on the essence of the bailout deal, but also taking into account the economic and social situation the country is found in, it is clear that all sides have a deeply justifiable stance.
PM Tsipras was literally forced to sign this deal, with no other credible option in the table, as the ultimatum “take it or leave” was already placed since early June. After June 13, he many times and publicly stated that he does not believe in this program, nor his cabinet do, and that this deal is not endorsed nor was prepared by him. He also stressed out that he will fight against this deal in practice, meaning that he will try to stand firm on pro-social reforms, to the extent that this is permissible and realistic, and that he is determined to combat deep systemic corruption and tax evasion. For that, and for the time being, there is reason for his party and the creditors to believe him.
On the other side, the Left Platform rejected the bailout package. Former Minister of Production Lafazanis as well as other leading figures of the Platform stressed out during the previous couple of weeks that they do have an alternative, i.e. the return to national currency, presenting all necessary steps to exit Eurozone in a structured and organized way. The problem for the Platform, as many members explicitly present it, is that PM Tsipras and his political entourage never discussed openly such an option, and whenever this topic was coming as an option, it was demonized and perceived as a non-viable, fictional solution that would plunge Greece deeper into recession and crisis. Fact is that the Left Platform has every right to oppose this bailout, feeling deserted when attempting to address a Plan B, and enraged when the so-called established media and a part of MPs close to PM Tsipras handle them in a rather ridiculous, unfair, and insulting manner.
Conclusion No. 2: What will be discussed in the Congress?
The Central Committee decided that the Congress will be held late September or early October, meaning after the (possible) end of final negotiations between the Greek government and the creditors. Unless the negotiation stall again, the Congress is expected to deal with a number of issues: a. How the Syriza party is going to adjust in the new reality and how the entire political organization will address the major policy guidelines adopted since the inaugural Congress in 2012, the vision of the Left, and the indispensable balance that has to be reached and recovered between party politics and the society; b. To a lesser extent, and linked with the positive or negative development of the negotiations, as well as the performance and applicability of the fiscal measures, a leadership issue might be triggered or a widespread effort for a part of deniers to skip unity and decide to exit the party and form a new coalition; c. Regardless of the development of the negotiations, a new balance between PM Tsipras supporters and Left Platform supporters might be formed in a power race that will define the next stage of Syriza as a left party, with wide appealing in the political centre and social democracy. Endorsement of forces of the political spectrum close to Syriza might be the next strategy of the leadership to solidify its electoral appeal and strengthen party membership.
Conclusion No. 3: What PM Tsipras is about to deal with?
PM Tsipras is reluctant to break unity in the party, at least for the moment. He wants the negotiations to end up smoothly, preparing the stage for the final bailout vote in the Greek Parliament and then getting ahead to the Congress where he will have the chance to clear up things. No matter what, PM Tsipras and the government will need to deal with some tricky burdens:
a. The IMF is rejecting any participation in the bailout program unless debt talks start, evolve and reach a solution, i.e. either haircut or restructure;
b. Negotiations might face another deadlock, especially with regards to a third set of prior actions that creditors might demand to pass though the Greek Parliament before the bailout deal;
c. if b applies, the problem is whether the Greek government will suffer further losses from its MPs, meaning that PM Tsipras will be then forced to call for elections earlier than October;
d. It is also unclear how the front opposition will behave in the Parliament with regards to a possible third set of prior actions or during bailout voting. Would they ask PM Tsipras to clear his rebels out and form another government, with the participation of New Democracy , The River and PASOK?
These are just some questions that we will see unfold in the coming weeks.
To contact the author Dimitris Rapidis:
Twitter: @rapidisAuthor : Dimitris Rapidis