Greek PM Seeks to Rally Party

Greek PM Seeks to Rally Party

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to rally his party members Tuesday to support a preliminary financial rescue deal that include measures so onerous some of his own ministers were in open revolt.

The government must pass several measures through Parliament by Wednesday night, including consumer tax increases and pension reforms, in order to start negotiations with European creditors on a third bailout worth as much as 85 billion euros ($95 billion).

The Greek leader faced a stark choice at a marathon eurozone summit that ended Monday morning: agree to the deal that tramples on practically all of his pre-election promises to repeal austerity, or see his country's banks collapse and Greece crash out of Europe's joint currency.

Tsipras is expected to have the numbers in Parliament to pass the measures, since he will have the support of most opposition parties. But the government's political survival is in danger if large numbers of its own lawmakers resign their seats or openly vote against the bill.

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, one of the hardliners in Tsipras' radical left Syriza party, denounced the deal and called on the prime minister to cancel it before legislation reaches Parliament.

"The deal ... is unacceptable and does not deserve to be charged to a radical political party such as Syriza, and a battling government that promised to abolish ... austerity," Lafazanis said in a statement posted on his ministry website. Germany, he said, treated Greece "as if it was their colony and (behaved) as brutal blackmailers and 'financial assassins'."

The government and Tsipras, the minister said, "have the right and the possibility to reposition themselves and take back the agreement before final decisions are taken in Parliament."

Tsipras was meeting with the party's top leadership Tuesday morning for talks that were expected to last several hours. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was also attending the meeting to brief on the contents of the deal.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who heads the government's junior coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, described the agreement and the pressure Greece was put under at the Brussels summit as an attempt to overthrow the government.

"The night before last, there was a coup. A coup in the heart of Europe," Kammenos told reporters outside Parliament. This was continuing inside Greece, he said. "They want the government to fall and to replace it with one that hasn't been voted on by the Greek people."

Kammenos said his party would continue to support the government and Tsipras, but that they would only vote on measures previously agreed to during a meeting of political leaders before the summit. It was unclear what effect this would have if all the measures needed to be passed by Parliament are submitted in a single bill.

Party spokesman Terence Quick said the Independent Greeks' 13 lawmakers would vote according to their conscience.

The government holds 162 seats in Greece's 300-member Parliament, and the bill is likely to pass as it enjoys the support of most opposition parties. But about 30 of Syriza's own lawmakers have publicly voiced objections, raising concerns over the government's stability.

Since his election in January, Tsipras has faced intense pressure to backpedal on his promises to Greece'sexhausted electorate, who have faced five years of harsh austerity measures that have left the economy reduced by a quarter and unemployment skyrocket.

But with the economy on its knees, he had little choice. If Greece's third bailout in five years goes ahead, it will provide about 85 billion euros in loans and financial support, preserving its membership in the euro, shoring up its banks and allowing some stability to return to the battered Greek economy.

Greece has other financing needs beyond its banks. On July 20, it has to make a 4.2 billion-euro ($4.6 billion) debt repayment to the ECB. It is also in arrears on 2 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund, after it missed a 456 million euro payment due Monday, on top of a roughly 1.5 billion euro payment it failed to make June 30.

The government — and many analysts — had argued that more budget austerity will hurt the economy, preventing it from emerging from its crisis.

The Greek economy has been pushed to the brink of collapse — banks have been shut for more than two weeks, with cash withdrawals restricted to 60 euros ($67) per day.

When the Greek banks eventually reopen, they will most likely have to depend on more emergency credit from the European Central Bank.

The ECB is not expected to sanction further help to the banks until the Greek parliament passes the first set of creditor demands on Wednesday. And even if the ECB does start increasing the emergency credit, Greece is expected to keep limits on money withdrawals and transfers for months to come.

(KA)