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article imageOp-Ed: Syriza divided on accepting creditor demands for Greek debt deal

By Ken Hanly     May 27, 2015 in Politics
Athens - While Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insists he wants a deal with Greece's creditors, many in the ruling Syriza party want the government to refuse to accept further demands and instead develop alternative plans in case there is no deal.
There is increasing pressure on the Greek government to accept changes to pensions and wages that would represent crossing its former "red lines." It has already crossed the lines on the issues of privatization and taxes. However, Prime Minister Tsipras faces strong pressure within the Syriza party to refuse any further demands that would go against the anti-austerity policies for which the party campaigned and helped it win the last election.
The "Left Platform" within Syriza argued Greece should simply stop paying its loans if the "institutions," formerly the Troika" of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, continue what they call the blackmailing of Greece by holding up release of loan funds until their demands are met. The group opposes further cuts to pensions and wages and also the changes to taxes and privatization that have already been agreed to by the government. A resolution by the "Left Platform" to simply default on debt payments and develop a plan for dealing with the consequences was defeated narrowly by a vote of 95 against to 75 in favor.
Even the final agreement for negotiating terms contains elements that creditors are quite unlikely to accept: The Central Committee agreed on a text saying any deal with creditors must involve no pension cuts, a small budget surplus before interest, increased public investment and a restructuring of Greece’s debt—terms that lenders are unlikely to accept. The text isn’t binding on Mr. Tsipras’s government but indicates how hard it will be to sell a deal to Syriza.
The leader of the Left Platform Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister, said default was preferable to surrender even if this involved departure of Greece from the euro zone. Dimitris Keridis, an associate professor at an Athens university, said Syriza may be threatened more by independent members of the Syriza coalition who will not accept party discipline unlike the Left Platform members: “The biggest threat may not end up being Mr. Lafazanis, but other parliamentary members who lack party discipline, who are newly elected and are completely unpredictable.” But Parliamentarian Ioanna Gaitani, a Trotskyite member of the Left Platform argued that Greece could survive a debt default and that creditors showed no respect for Syriza’s mandate: “When faced with the pseudo-dilemma of ‘euro or national currency,’ the answer is a unilateral write-off of most of the debt, the taxation of large wealth, and the implementation of Syriza’s program. For the Left, the needs of the people are above profits and debts.”
If Tsipras reaches a deal that caves on all the Syriza red lines, the Left Platform could show solidarity within the group, rather than party discipline, by all the members rejecting the deal.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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