A group of 25 members of Greece’s governing Syriza party have broken off to form their own group in parliament. The lawmakers had defied a call by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to back Greece’s third financial bailout.
With its 25 seats, the new parliamentary group, to be called “Popular Unity,” is the third largest in the Greek parliament, after Syriza with 124 seats and the conservative New Democracy party, with 76 in the 300-seat legislature.
The new parliamentary group, made up of far-left former members of the already far-left Syriza party, is to be led by the former energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis (pictured above).
The 25 lawmakers announced the move in a letter to parliament on Friday, a day after Alexis Tsipras used a televised address to announce that he was stepping down as prime minister.
“I wish to be fully frank with you. We did not achieve the agreement that we were hoping for before the January elections,” Tsipras said, referring to Greece’s third international bailout worth 86 billlion euros ($96 billion).
“But … (the agreement we have) was the best anyone could have achieved. We are obliged to observe this agreement, but at the same time we will do our utmost to minimize its negative consequences,” he said.
Tsipras’ resignation, coupled with the defection of a large chunk of his parliamentary group, meant that Greece appeared set to head into its fifth general election in the space of six years.
However, in a bid to avoid early polls, the country’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on Friday asked the leader of the second party, Evangelos Meimarakis to try to put together a coalition government.
Recent opinion polls indicate that if the president does wind up calling a fresh election, Tsipras and Syriza are likely to win again, although not with the majority that they took in the January polls, when they ran on a platform of rejecting the sort of austerity measures that they wound up agreeing to in Greece’s third bailout.