Greece: After Eurogroup agreement, internal debate erupts in Syriza

Stathis Kouvelakis, member of the Central Committee of SYRIZA and one of the leading exponents of the Left Platform, has written an account of the turbulent meeting of the party’s parliamentary group, which reveals doubt and opposition to the agreement reached with the Eurogroup.

“Important news: one third of Syriza's parliamentary group rejecting the agreement in internal vote!

“Yesterday [Wednesday, February 18) a crucial meeting of Syriza's group of MPs took place. Initially scheduled to last three hours it finally lasted more than twelve! Alexis Tsipras introduced it and about 80 MPs spoke. A clear majority of speakers expressed criticisms of various forms and intensities about the agreement and the strategy followed by the government. Although it was unclear whether a vote should take place, Tsipras finally asked one to be held at the end of the meeting, with indicative value. About 30 MPs (out of the 149) were out of the room at that moment. There was no formal counting of the vote (which took place by raising hands) but around 40 MPs abstained or voted against. The four ministers of the Left Platform abstained by the ranks of those rejecting the agreement went far beyond Left Platform supporters.

“As a result the government will almost certainly not bring the agreement to Parliament. To do so would amount to taking the risk of seeing either the government falling, or, most likely, standing thanks to the support of To Potami, PASOK and part of New Democracy MPs. The two first parties have issued statements supporting the agreement.” - Stathis Kouvelakis

syriza1The fact that the agreement with the Eurogroup may not be presented to Parliament for iapproval is explained by the leadership by the fact that it would be simply "an extension" of those already signed by previous governments. It is in effect a not so veiled admission of the fact that the criticisms of those who oppose it are justified: neither the Troika, nor austerity has been "driven out of the country”, on the contrary!

It is worth noting that if parliament were to be thus by-passed, the Tsipras government would be behaving in the same way as previous governments. This would be an under-evaluation of the role of Parliament, something which had always been strongly criticized by Syriza when it was in opposition.

The criticism did not come, as explained by Kouvelakis, only from the left of the party. Zoe Konstantopoulou, President of the Parliament, has expressed much doubt, but the more embarrassing criticism for Tsipras comes from the head of the Economic Policy department of Syriza, Yannis Milios in a document published on Wednesday, co-signed with Spyros Lapatsiras and Dimitris Sotiropoulos, that begins with an interesting title "The agreement of 20 February: a first step on a slippery slope." The document, albeit from a reformist point of view, poses significant questions to the government and states among other things:

“The fact that the government has decided to describe its partial retreat and the change ‘imposed’ on its programme as a ‘victory’ does not bode well for the future, because it shows that it is more interested in the image than in the substance. And, among other things, it could turn into a real defeat.”

In the Central Committee of SYRIZA scheduled for tomorrow this discussion will develop further. The Communist Tendency of SYRIZA will present the following resolution to the debate:

As activists of SYRIZA we reaffirm our support for the electoral commitments of the party and its founding political and programmatic principles. We call on the government to immediately cancel the agreement to extend the Memorandum and that our MPs vote against, should they be asked for approval in parliament. The Programme of SYRIZA which had the mass support of the Greek people in the elections must be carried out immediately, without seeking the approval of the creditors.

For the Communist Tendency of Syriza

Stamatis Karagiannopoulos and Orestis Doulos – members of the Central Committee of Syriza