The prospect of the Greek government canceling a hastily called referendum on creditors’ proposals has reportedly caused a firestorm of debate within the ruling SYRIZA party, and more importantly, within the Cabinet itself.
According to sources, intra-government friction was rife during the days after Alexis Tsipras’ decision to call for a referendum, a late-night surprise made during a nationally televised address.
Capital controls and a week-long bank holiday after the ECB declined to raise the ELA ceiling for liquidity towards Greek banks exacerbated the tension within the government.
Several high-ranking ministers, including Deputy PM Yannis Dragasakis, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis, Cabinet secretary Spyros Sayias and top negotiator Euclid Tsakalotos, the alternate FM, were increasingly vocal in opposing the referendum and attempting a re-launch negotiations with creditors.
Conversely, Minister of State Nikos Pappas and Tsipras’ close confidant and aide, Alekos Flabouraris, appear to insist on the referendum, with the consensus amongst the “hardline” portion of the party being that the plebiscite will proceed as scheduled. The same position was taken by controversial and outspoken Parliament President also emphasized, who claimed it could not be cancelled.
SYRIZA’s “internal opposition”, the virulent anti-capitalist “Left Platform”, is also thoroughly against any compromise with creditors or cancellation of the referendum.
Finally, FinMin Yanis Varoufakis has been quoted as saying that he won’t sign any new bailout agreement that is not viable, in his opinion.
Earlier, Dragasakis, a well-regarded top economist in the SYRIZA government, said Athens submitted a request for a two-year funding scheme in order to try and borrow from the markets after the period and to jump-start growth.
Speaking a day before yet another urgently called Eurogroup meeting to focus squarely on the Greek issue, the LSE-educated Dragasakis reminded that the country is enduring its sixth year of austerity and recession.
“We can’t talk about cutting salaries and pensions as means for exiting the crisis,” the veteran lawmaker stressed.
Even more telling, the Greek government deputy premier told Greek public television (ERT) on Tuesday evening that a solution between Athens and creditors must be found, “but not on the basis of submission or a blind clash (between the two sides)”.
Moreover, he said that the second bailout plan, which ended at midnight on Tuesday, had failed, with the signs on the wall apparent since last summer.