Tsipras gives Greeks the gift of another election

Given how much fun electoral politics is here in the United States, I can only imagine how happy the people of Greece are now that their (former?) Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, is apparently resigning in order to force snap elections. Congratulations, Greek folks! Now instead of spending all your time worrying about which kind of cat food the German finance minister will allow you to eat (canned is probably too fancy, sorry), you also get to be bombarded with a bunch of campaigning politicians angling for your vote! What joy!

As that Guardian piece makes pretty clear, Tsipras didn’t really have much choice but to go this route, for two reasons: first, his decision to go forward with the Troika’s bailout/austerity package cost him enough support in his own Syriza party to make governing difficult, and second, he’s a smart enough politician to understand that Syriza’s electoral chances are a hell of a lot better right now than they will be after another couple of years of said austerity. If he comes out ahead in the snap elections (on September 20), he’ll have bought himself five more years in office at the head of a party that presumably won’t be 1/3 against him, where without the snap elections he’d have 3 years and change left and would be at risk of losing a confidence vote the whole time.

Syriza is Greece’s most popular party last time anyone checked, but as I say about a third of its elected representatives broke with Tsipras over the bailout vote. Although the party is going to try to resolve its internal disputes before the vote, there’s a strong possibility that at least some of those dissenting ministers might break off and form their own party in opposition. Syriza’s current coalition partners, the far right ANEL, may also decide not to partner with Tsipras anymore. That might not matter so much, though, because the remaining Syriza bloc, with the now pro-bailout Tsipras in charge, could find that its options in terms of coalition partners are now more numerous than they were when the party won its first plurality in January 2014.

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