Cor­nered PM could seek polls

Prospect of new mea­sures to se­cure IMF bailout par­tic­i­pa­tion could lead Tsipras to seek way out via elec­tion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The gov­ern­ment’s fearthat a com­pro­mise be­tween the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund to se­cure the lat­ter’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Greek bailout pro­gram will lead to a new batch of mea­sures in 2018 through 2020 has prompted Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras to re­vive the prospect of snap polls.

Tsipras was ap­par­ently hop­ing that the IMF would sit out the ne­go­ti­a­tions of the se­cond re­view of the coun­try’s third bailout, thus al­low­ing the gov­ern­ment to se­cure its key aim of debt re­lief with­out hav­ing to achieve pri­mary sur­pluses of the or­der of 3.5 per­cent af­ter 2018.

How­ever, the sig­nals com­ing from Berlin in­di­cate that a dif­fer­ent course is be­ing mapped out as Ger­man Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble is in­sist­ing that the se­cond re­view must be con­cluded in tan­dem with an agree­ment over the con­tin­ued par­tic­i­pa­tion of the IMF in the Greek bailout pro­gram. And given that any debt re­lief will not be overly gen­er­ous to start with, the IMF is ex­pected to de­mand the im­ple­men­ta­tion over the next few years of fur­ther aus­ter­ity mea­sures that will be en­shrined in a new deal with Athens early next year.

The ex­tra mea­sures, gov­ern­ment sources sug­gest, will in­clude the low­er­ing of the taxfree thresh­old to 5,000 eu­ros, the scrap­ping of a string of tax ex­emp­tions and fur­ther bur­dens on pen­sion­ers.

The gov­ern­ment’s con­cerns were high­lighted in a speech by Tsipras last Wed­nes­day to the SYRIZA par­lia­men­tary group, where he in­sisted that he will not ac­cept fur­ther mea­sures, “es­pe­cially if they con­cern the years af­ter the pro­gram has ended” – mean­ing, in other words, the years beyond 2018. He fur­ther added that elec­tions could be in the pipe­line if the bailout re­view ne­go­ti­a­tions col­lapse.

How­ever, aides to the PM were quick to note that he wanted to send a mes­sage to the coun­try’s cred­i­tors, none of which wants to see Greece make too many waves in 2017, a year of im­por­tant gen­eral elec­tions across Europe.

Tsipras is also feel­ing the pres­sure from within his own party as dis­senters have made it abun­dantly clear that they will not ac­qui­esce to fur­ther mea­sures, which would be owned ex­clu­sively by the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment as the bailout agree­ment in 2015 was sold and viewed as the re­sult of the poli­cies fol­lowed in pre­ced­ing years by New Democ­racy and PASOK.

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