Tsipras battles to keep grip on his divided party

Alexis Tsipras addresses a meeting of Syriza's 200'member executive in Athens yesterday. Picture: AP

Alexis Tsipras addresses a meeting of Syriza's 200'member executive in Athens yesterday. Picture: AP

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GREEK prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s power-sharing acrobatics are looking harder to perform by the day.

Opposition parties are propping up his left-wing government long enough to negotiate a new bailout and keep the country in the eurozone, while senior members of his own party, Syriza, have revived a campaign to bring back the drachma.

Panagiotis Lafazanis: "Exit from euro would not be a disaster". Picture: AP

Panagiotis Lafazanis: "Exit from euro would not be a disaster". Picture: AP

Lead bailout negotiators are due in Athens, intensifying a new round of talks for a massive third rescue package, after Athens and lenders from other eurozone countries reached a bitterly fought compromise.

But Mr Tsipras has a more pressing priority. He will be battling to keep control of Syriza at a meeting of the party’s 200-member executive, facing dissenters who argue the Left has abandoned its principles over the past six months under the country’s popular PM.

The uncertainty has renewed questions over whether Greece can – or should – endure two more years of austerity and bailout policies that have battered its economy and the political parties that implemented them.

“Tsipras doesn’t have many options,” said Dimitri Sotiropoulos, an associate professor of political science at the University of Athens, who sees a snap election in November as a strong possibility.

“One is to strengthen his position in his party, but he is not fond of seeking confrontation. The other is to call an early election. The timing is sensitive: It would have to be after the bailout talks are concluded, but before opposition parties can regroup.”

In a vote three weeks ago, Mr Tsipras effectively lost his majority in parliament, when nearly a quarter of Syriza’s MPs refused to back new austerity measures. Pro-European Union opposition parties were left to save the bill.

Since then, far-left dissenters have grown more defiant.

Panagiotis Lafazanis, recently fired as energy minister in a reshuffle, called on the government and country to prepare for a national currency.

“An exit from the euro in spite of all the dark propaganda, would in no way be a disaster,” he told supporters in an Athens theatre earlier this week, celebrating five years since the launch of his political website Iskra, a name inspired by the Bolshevik underground newspaper once run by Vladimir Lenin.

Fully named the Coalition of the Radical Left, Syriza was formed as an alliance that eventually included about a dozen left-wing and anti-establishment groups who voted to become a unified party in 2013.

Before yesterday’s party executive meeting, Mr Tsipras acknowledged that Syriza was still adapting to becoming a party of government.

“We must admit that Syriza has not become a unified party,” he said in a two-hour radio interview on Wednesday.

“It’s been described as a violent maturing process: Syriza went from a party that received 4 per cent [in previous elections] to one that now carries the hopes of the majority of the Greek people.”

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