Newspaper article International New York Times

Allies Put Pressure on Greek Leader ; Prime Minister Struggles with Own Party in Efforts to Deal with Creditors

Newspaper article International New York Times

Allies Put Pressure on Greek Leader ; Prime Minister Struggles with Own Party in Efforts to Deal with Creditors

Article excerpt

Seeking to secure vital rescue funds, the Greek prime minister faced his biggest challenge from within his party since taking office in January.

With Greece in the final stretch of negotiations with its creditors, aimed at unlocking rescue loans that the country needs to avert an imminent default, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces growing pressure from the ranks of his own party.

After weeks of simmering dissent among the more radical elements of his leftist Syriza party, Mr. Tsipras on Sunday faced his biggest challenge from within the party since taking office in January. A faction known as the Left Platform proposed that Greece stop paying its creditors if they continue with "blackmailing tactics" and instead seek "an alternative plan" for the debt-racked country. The proposal came as the interior minister, Nikos Voutsis, told Greek television that Athens would not be able to make debt repayments of 1.6 billion euros, or nearly $1.8 billion, that are due next month to the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece's three international creditors.

"The money won't be given," Mr. Voutsis said. "It isn't there to be given."

The proposal by the Left Platform, which is led by Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister, and represents around 30 of Syriza's 149 representatives in the Greek Parliament, was rejected by the party's central committee late Sunday by a vote of 95 to 75. That Mr. Tsipras's more moderate stance prevailed represented a small victory for the prime minister. But the strong support for the Left Platform's proposal indicates that Mr. Tsipras faces a difficult balancing act as he tries to seal a deal with creditors and bring it to Parliament.

Syriza came to power on a promise to take a hard line with creditors in debt negotiations and resist the type of austerity measures that are blamed for driving up unemployment to 25 percent and slashing household incomes by a third. But Mr. Tsipras has had to soften his approach as he has worked for months to reach an agreement with the country's three international creditors -- the I.M.F., the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- and unlock EUR 7.2 billion in bailout funds that Greece needs to meet debt repayments over the summer and remain solvent. …

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