Tsipras moves to placate party as vote looms

Cuts-for-cash proposals presented by Tsipras tentatively welcomed in European capitals

Almost two weeks after the banks closed and their economy went into freefall, Greeks awoke this morning to news that a deal is taking shape to avert a chaotic exit from the euro zone.

The cuts-for-cash proposals presented by prime minister Alexis Tsipras have been tentatively welcomed in European capitals, but a great deal hinges on how they're greeted at home.

In particular, will Syriza MPs fall into line to approve a reform package that looks substantively like the one offered by the creditors on June 26th? And what of the 61 per cent of the population that rejected those proposals in a referendum just five days ago?

First, the party. Syriza was elected on a platform of rupture with the grinding austerity policies of previous governments. The thought of signing up to a package of savings worth €13 billion will be galling for many of its MPs.

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For some it will be a step too far, and Tsipras can expect to lose a number of deputies on Syriza’s far-left flank. But if he can keep internal dissent under control and contain the defections, it won’t necessarily jeopardise the deal’s passage through parliament.

The conservative New Democracy and the centrist Potami are likely to support the package, after all. Syriza MP Dimitris Vitsas told Greek television the atmosphere at the parliamentary party meeting this morning was "fine" and that "we're all working for an agreement". Asked if a deal would be agreed, Syriza spokesman Niko Filis replied: "Certainly."

But what of those No voters who celebrated on Syntagma Square on Sunday night, thinking they had rejected austerity? How will Tsipras placate them?

The shape of the government’s sales pitch is beginning to emerge. At the meeting of his Syriza MPs this morning, Tsipras told them the choice, clearly laid out by European leaders this week, was between staying in the euro zone or leaving it, with unpredictable results.

He reminded them that there were two messages delivered by the people last Sunday: no to harsh austerity, but yes to the euro. "We have a mandate to bring a better deal than the ultimatum that the eurogroup gave us. We do not have a mandate to take Greece out of the euro zone," he said in comments that were widely leaked.

The Syriza leadership will argue that, while their opponents shout capitulation, they have ended up with a better deal than they had last week. The cuts, tax rises and reforms sought by the lenders under the June 26th plan were in exchange for a five-month financial lifeline for Greece. Now Athens has got pretty much the same terms for a bailout of €53 billion over three years. Tsipras is also confident, given positive hints from EU figures such as Donald Tusk and Pierre Moscovici in recent days, that he will secure in the final document a clear reference to debt relief and a commitment from lenders to begin discussing this from October.

A concession from the lenders on debt could be enough to allow Tsipras claim he has begun to give Greeks what so many of them yearn for: sight of a clear route out of the trauma of the past six years.

For Tsipras and for Greece, then, the stakes could hardly be higher when parliament convenes this afternoon. “Either we’ll carry on together or we will all fall together,” he told his MPs this morning.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is an Assistant Editor of The Irish Times