[Marxism] Greek parliament approves Tsipras' negotiation plan; do Syriza defections threaten gov't?; will Eurogroup approve Greek proposal?

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Fri Jul 10 22:53:58 MDT 2015

Government negotiating plan approved by parliament
After an emotional plea by the PM, the government negotiating plan is
approved by the parliament, based on opposition votes. The government
block loses 17 votes.
The Times of Greece, July 11

After a 3.5 hour discussion in parliament, MPs overwhelmingly approved
the government's negotiating plan for a bailout deal, which is to be
discussed in Brussels over the coming weekend. The final tally was 251
"Yes" votes, 32 "No" votes, 8 abstinence votes and 9 MPs not present
during voting.

This might look like an excellent tally for the government, but it
causes all sorts of headaches for the PM, given that a total of 17 MPs
from the majority government coalition did not tally with the "Yes"
vote. Among them, Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and House
speaker, Zoe Konstandopoulou.

Earlier, during his speech, the PM urged all majority MPs to vote for
his government's proposals, adding that he demanded the preservation
of his majority in the vote. Given that 17 MPs didn't obey his plea,
the government has unofficially lost its given majority, which could
cause trouble for the government coalition.

In his speech, Alexis Tsipras defended the painful bailout proposals
his leftwing government presented to parliament on Friday, saying they
were difficult measures but would help keep Greece in the euro zone.

Arguing that the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts was better on many
points than the package rejected by voters in a referendum on Sunday,
Tsipras insisted that he had won important concessions on
restructuring Greece's enormous public debt.

"For the first time, we have on the table a substantial discussion for
a debt restructuring," he said in a debate before parliament votes on
endorsing the proposals.

He said Greece would meet 6.8 billion euros of payments on maturing
bonds held by the European Central Bank due in July and August and
said that the capital controls imposed on banks would not force the
government to take new fiscal measures.

It's now up to the Prime Minister himself to offer his reading, if not
spin, of the crucial vote. Analysts believe that Energy minister
Lafazanis has all but resigned with his stance and vote, while there
is going to be an issue with parliament speaker, Zoe Konstandopoulou.

There has never been a Greek parliament where the House speaker has
not supported a bill, much less after her PM has all but ordered her
to do so. Also, what could happen with those "No" and abstinence votes
when the actual bill that comes out of the negotiations in Brussels
arrives in the Greek parliament?

Will this spell the beginning of the end for the awkward government
coalition of left wing SYRIZA with the nationalistic Independent
Greeks party? Could this vote lead to political developments which
could even hint towards early elections in the middle of the country's
most crucial economic negotiations with its EU partners? Only time -
and the powerful PM - will tell.

Greece’s Parliament Approves Greek Bailout Proposal; Now It’s in Europe’s Hands
by Anastasios Papapostolou
The Greek Reporter, July 11

The Greek parliament approved on Saturday Greek PM Alexis Tsipras’
bailout plan to negotiate a deal with Greece’s creditors based on the
political party leaders’ agreement draft.

The Greek Prime Minister and Finance Chief Euclid Tsakalotos called
the parliament to approve the bill and authorize the Greek negotiating
team to conduct an agreement with the lenders.

On the draft bailout bill, 232 members voted yes, while 32 rejected
it. Eight members abstained from the vote, including Parliament
Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou who stated that althogh the Greek PM
negotiated fiercefully, the bill is a product of international
blackmailing to Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent the proposal to Greece’s
creditors on Thursday, in what it looks like the last chance for the
debt-ridden country to receive a bailout agreement and avoid a
financial collapse and possible exit from the Eurozone.

On Friday the PM brought the proposal to the parliament asking its MPS
to pass a law that will be approve it as a basis for a bailout deal,
and authorize him, Finance Minister Tsakalotos and Greek VP Ioannis
Dragasakis to sign such an agreement with the creditors.

The long parliamentary session, finally approved the bill on the first
hours of Saturday.

Addressing lawmakers in the Greek Parliament on Friday night, Greece’s
Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said the government was seeking
Parliament’s authorization in order to further strengthen the
country’s negotiating position, “in the spirit of the political party
leaders’ agreement.”

“Even though we were not obliged to do this, after the 61% in the
referendum, since we had a stronger position, we want to do it in
order to make it even stronger,” he said during a meeting of four
parliamentary committees.

A crucial Eurogroup will evaluate the proposal on Saturday in Brussels.

Tsipras wins Parliament's support for proposals but also suffers losses
by Nikos Chrysoloras
I Kathimerini, Athens, July11     (Bloomberg)

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras clinched the backing of Greek
lawmakers for his bailout proposal, a prelude to a weekend of
political wrangling in Brussels that may determine his nation’s place
in the euro.

Tsipras won overwhelming support for the package of spending cuts,
pension savings and tax increases with a majority of 251 votes in the
300-seat parliament early on Saturday. The country’s three creditor
institutions also assessed the program positively as a basis for a 74
billion-euro ($83 billion) bailout, according to a euro area official
who spoke on condition of anonymity.

While Tsipras can now vaunt Parliament’s support as a show of domestic
resolve to his European counterparts, some of them may need more
convincing on the plan itself. When the region’s finance ministers
meet later in the day, it’s likely Germany will oppose it, two
euro-zone officials said on Friday.
 . . .
...While the vote win keeps alive such hopes and provides evidence
that the government commands broad support to negotiate a deal, it
came at a cost for Tsipras.

Seventeen members of his ruling coalition didn’t back the plan,
including Syriza heavyweights Parliament speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou
and hardline leftist Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis. The vote
result could weaken his grip on power and complicate implementation of
any potential bailout agreement.
 . . .
Lawmakers began discussing the bailout proposal at about 11:53 p.m. in
Athens and spoke through the early hours of Saturday. In an
introductory speech, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos declared
Greece is now in a better position than before the July 5 referendum
where voters followed government advice and rejected terms of a
previous bailout proposal.

“Greek people didn’t give a mandate for rupture,” Tsipras told
lawmakers. “They gave a mandate to strengthen the government’s
negotiating power for an economically sustainable deal.”

The European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the
European Central Bank assessed the bailout to require 58 billion euros
from the European Stability Mechanism -- the euro area’s rescue fund
-- and the remaining 16 billion euros from the IMF, one of the
officials said. AFP reported the evaluation earlier.

Across Europe, the response to the bailout plan has been mixed. French
President Francois Hollande said in a rare Twitter post that its
reform proposals were “serious, credible” and demonstrated Greece’s
determination to stay in the euro area.

The package almost mirrored that from creditors on June 26 -- which
was rejected by Greek voters in a July 5 referendum. Chancellor Angela
Merkel’s government said that discussions for that plan only covered a
five-month extension whereas the new program request is for three
years, so would have to include tougher conditions than addressed at
the end of June.

Euro-zone finance ministers will discuss the assessment of the three
creditor institutions on Saturday, before leaders are due to meet the
next day. An agreement is “possible” but not certain, Tsipras told
lawmakers as the debate began.

Though he ceded ground with his bailout proposal, Tsipras insists
long-term debt needs to be made more manageable to allow Greece to
recover from a crisis that has erased a quarter of its economy. He has
a growing support base that includes the U.S., European Union
President Donald Tusk and the IMF.

Tsipras says he has strong mandate to seal agreement with creditors
I Kathimerini, Athens, July 11

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras issued a brief statement after a vote in
Parliament early Saturday on the proposals his government submitted to
the instititions on Thursday.

The proposals gained overwhelming support from MPs, with 251 voting in
favor of the plan. However, 17 coalition lawmakers failed to support
the proposals and Tsipras suggested he would take action about this
once talks in Brussels have been concluded.

"The national Parliament gave the government today a strong mangate to
complete the negotiations for the achievemnet of an economically
voavle and socially just agreement with the partners," he said.

"The priority is to succesfully conclude the negotiations. Everything
else will be dealt with at the appropriate time."

Some gov't lawmakers abstain in reform vote
by The Associated Press, Athens July 11
 . . .
In a speech with a strongly personal tone, Prime Minister Alexis
Tsipras says he negotiated as hard as he could and admits his
government had made mistakes during his barely six-month tenure as he
fought to win bailout funds for his debt-ridden country.

Speaking in a late-night parliament session, Tsipras described the
last few months as a war in which difficult battles were fought and
some were lost. "Now I have the feeling we've reached the demarked
line. From here on there is a minefield," he said.

He added that he doesn't have the right to hide from the Greek people
that the measures Greece must take are far from his left-wing party's
pre-election pledges.

But he insisted the latest proposal contains measures that would help
the economy and, if approved by Greece's creditors, would unlock
sufficient financing for the country to emerge from its protracted
crisis and see its massive debt tackled.
 . . .

Greece’s Parliament Approves Prime Minister’s Bailout Plan
by Liz Alderman and Andrew Higgins
New York Times, July 11

ATHENS — Setting the stage for a pivotal deal with Europe, the Greek
Parliament early Saturday approved Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s
proposal for a three-year, $59 billion rescue package with harsh
austerity terms that was remarkably similar to the one Greek voters
rejected in a referendum less than a week ago.

With a Sunday deadline looming for a decision on the bailout, a crunch
point that all sides see as Greece’s last chance to avoid bankruptcy
and stay in the euro currency zone, the plan passed by an overwhelming

The final vote showed that 251 lawmakers voted for the plan, while the
rest of the body’s 300 members opposed it, abstained or were absent.
But because 17 lawmakers from Mr. Tsipras’s coalition did not support
the plan — 2 voted no, 8 voted present and 7 were absent — a shuffling
of the prime minister’s government seemed likely, and some analysts
said that it was possible that Mr. Tsipras might resign.
 . . .
The goal is not to seal a deal that would immediately provide Greece
with new funding, but simply to get a formal green light to start what
could be lengthy talks on a new bailout to replace one that expired on
June 30. Just the signal to start talks, though, could lift a dark
cloud of uncertainty, at least temporarily, and give the European
Central Bank cover to perhaps expand recently frozen emergency cash
for Greek banks, which have been closed since June 29.

A final agreement is still far from a sure thing. A raft of actors —
19 eurozone finance ministers; 28 European Union leaders, who have
been called to Brussels to discuss the crisis on Sunday; and the
bureaucracies in Brussels — need to examine the proposal before giving
their approval. And there is so much bad blood after months of
insults, frustration and failure, there is little faith in European
circles in Greece’s pledges to carry out measures like tax increases
and cuts in pension spending.

Representatives of the main creditors — the International Monetary
Fund, the European Central Bank and the other European nations that
use the euro — were poring over the Greek proposal on Friday. Their
assessments will play a critical role in any decisions by the
Eurogroup, an assembly of finance ministers from euro countries, which
is to meet in Brussels on Saturday.
 . . .
While President François Hollande of France welcomed the new proposals
as “serious” and “credible,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and
her key ministers kept silent on Friday, insisting that it was too
soon to judge the suggestions now being reviewed by the European
Commission, the European Central Bank and the I.M.F.

“We will wait until the institutions examine them and express their
opinion,” said Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German government.

But he repeated Germany’s longstanding insistence that all 19
countries that use the euro must follow the rules, a position that has
made Berlin resistant in the past to pleas from Greece that demands
for tight budgets must be relaxed and debts restructured to prevent
the country from suffocating.

Martin Jäger, spokesman for the German finance minister, Wolfgang
Schäuble, said the outcome of the Saturday gathering remained
“completely open.” Both Mr. Schäuble and Ms. Merkel have ruled out
writing off any of Greece’s debt under what Ms. Merkel has called “a
classical haircut,” or debt write-down, but they have indicated they
might be open to extending payment deadlines and reducing interest

Some of Ms. Merkel’s political allies and the governments of Eastern
and Central European countries that have taken an even tougher line on
Athens than Germany raised doubts on Friday about Greece’s readiness
and ability to deliver on its new promises, delivered Thursday just
before a deadline fixed by creditors expired.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the Christian Social Union, which is
part of Ms. Merkel’s conservative bloc, noted the similarities between
the new proposal and the one rejected by the Greek people. “That means
there are two possibilities: Either the Greek government is tricking
its own people, or us yet again,” Mr. Friedrich told Deutschlandfunk
radio on Friday.
   _   _   _   _   _   _   _
Liz Alderman reported from Athens, and Andrew Higgins from Brussels.
Reporting was contributed by James Kanter from Brussels; Niki
Kitsantonis, Suzanne Daley, Anemona Hartocollis and Dimitris Bounias
from Athens; Alison Smale from Berlin; and Rick Lyman from Warsaw.

Germans pressure Merkel to say 'no' to Greece
by Laura Goehler
CNNMoney, July 10

All eyes are on Germany as European leaders gather to decide on
Greece's future this weekend.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble wield the most power in granting Greece a third bailout
package that is expected to be worth tens of billions of euros.

These two politicians manage the biggest economy in Europe and their
country has already given Greece the most loans of any European
nation, totaling roughly 56 billion euros ($62 billion). That works
out to about 700 euros ($780) per German citizen.

But even if they decide to trust the Greeks with more rescue loans, it
does not mean the German public will, nor does it guarantee that
German money will follow.

Any decisions will have to be approved by the German parliament, the
Bundestag. Parliamentary members could crush any new hopes of a deal
for Greece. Without parliamentary approval, Merkel's hands are tied.

Convincing her own ranks to support a new bailout program for Greece
has become increasingly difficult. A parliamentary vote in February
saw more than 100 out 631 parliamentarians openly voicing their
resentment to the idea of keeping Greece inside the eurozone. At the
same meeting, 29 members of Merkel's conservative party voted against
extending Greece's previous bailout program.

The popular German newspaper 'Die Bild' has also set the tone by
publishing a five-point plan for Merkel to take to the negotiating
table. At the top of the agenda: an immediate 'Grexit'.

But Merkel is motivated to keep Greece in the eurozone because cutting
it loose would cause a range of potentially dangerous knock-on
effects. People would openly question the viability of the eurozone.

If Greece is cut off from all financial support, it would have to
print its own currency, and inflation would likely soar -- making life
even tougher for millions of Greeks who have already suffered years of
hardship. And no one wants a failing state in southeastern Europe.

So as eurozone leaders meet this weekend, international pressure will
be on Merkel to strike a deal, even if that means potentially facing a
vote of confidence in parliament.

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