Alexis Tsipras has announced he will step down and call surprise elections on September 20th. The Greek Prime Minister has had a turbulent premiership, accepting controversial bailouts that have divided Greece in the past year.
The Eurozone finance ministers approved an €86 billion bailout last week, as the Greek government made several concessions, including privatising some of its largest state-owned industries. The resignation of Alexis Tsipras marks the end of an era where anti-establishment, left-wing politics were put into the spotlight in Greece on a wave of public support.
Winning a majority of seats in the 2015 snap elections, Alexis Tsipras, as leader of Syriza, promised to break the crippling austerity measures implemented by creditors. This included bold claims of pension reform, increasing welfare spending and stand up to the “Troika” of lenders. Over the past few months, the Syriza government has seen tense showdowns with its European creditors – at one point, it looked as if a Greek default was inevitable. A surprise referendum was held, asking the Greek people if they should accept the terms of a new bailout. The people voted strongly against a new deal.
But ultimately, Alexis Tsipras wasn’t able to deliver his promises. Greece accepted the deal, preventing it from defaulting and allowing banks that had been closed to resume business. This course of action led to deep division within the Syriza party, and it seems those divisions could not be healed. Alexis Tsipras was not able to withstand the pressure of the neoliberal ideology, and the party openly rebelled over the next few months.
Many in the party felt that Alexis Tsipras had abandoned what the party stood for: putting the people of Greece before the demands of foreign creditors. Instead, he oversaw two more bailouts that came with increasing austerity requirements, including pension cuts and VAT rises for outlying Greek islands. Many other liberal parties across Europe, particularly in high-debt countries such as Portugal and Spain, kept a keen eye on Tsipras and his dealings with the Eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. Ultimately, he stated that Greece must remain in the Eurozone, and for that reason the bailouts had to be accepted.
In accordance with the Greek constitution, Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou will become leader of the country until an election is called.