Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras To Resign, Clearing Way for Elections, In Bid To Uphold Bailout Deal

…Premier is facing divisions in his left-wing Syriza party over bailout deal

imageATHENS—Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to hand in his resignation Thursday evening to clear the way for early national elections expected on Sept. 20, according to two government officials, in a gamble aimed at bolstering his power and ability to implement Greece’s bailout deal.

Mr. Tsipras intends to tell Greece’s head of state, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, late Thursday that he can no longer continue as premier due to the lack of a stable governing majority in parliament, said the officials, who took part in government’s deliberations about when to take the country to snap elections.

The premier will propose Sept. 20 as the date for new parliamentary elections, according to a government official. The decision on the date rests Mr. Pavlopoulos. The government is expected to announce its intentions publicly in the evening.

Mr. Tsipras’s governing left-wing Syriza party is deeply split over the premier’s decision to reach a new bailout deal with Greece’s eurozone creditors that obliges Greece to enact further tough austerity measures. Dozens of Syriza lawmakers have voted against the government’s proposed measures to secure a bailout in recent weeks.

Greece and its international creditors reached agreement on the terms of the country’s new bailout program, which if ratified by other eurozone countries could unlock essential financing over the next three years. Charles Forelle has the details.
The 41-year-old premier hopes that new elections would allow him to win a stronger mandate to implement the bailout deal, backed by a new lineup of Syriza lawmakers that is more likely to support the government on key legislation.

Opinion polls suggest the popular Mr. Tsipras is well placed to win another term as prime minister, although he might need coalition partners. But the extent of support for smaller parties than Syriza is uncertain and could determine the shape of the next coalition—including how smoothly the bailout program proceeds.

An election date in mid- or late September would be before Greece has to enact another round of unpopular austerity measures, including cuts to pension entitlements. It would also leave Syriza’s rebels with little time to organize a new anti-bailout party.

Thursday’s deliberations in Athens came hours after Greece received its first aid payment for a year from its creditor: A disbursement of €13 billion from the eurozone bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. Most of the money immediately went on repaying Greek debts, including €3.2 billion in government bonds held by the European Central Bank that matured on Thursday.

A caretaker government would take over until elections are held, led by Greece’s Supreme Court President Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou, who would become the first female prime minister in Greece’s history.

Over the past months, 49 out of Syriza’s 149 lawmakers have withheld their support for Mr. Tsipras’s government in three parliamentary votes on laws to secure a new bailout from Europe.

In an Aug. 14 vote to approve Greece’s latest loan package, worth €86 billion over three years, 32 Syriza deputies voted no while another 11 abstained. The package passed thanks to support from opposition parties.

Energy Minister Panos Skourletis said on Thursday that the government should go for elections as early as possible. “The political landscape must clear up. We need to know whether the government has or does not have a majority,” he told state broadcaster ERT.

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