Greek ruling party to split after PM’s resignation

Greece's Energy Minister and head of the far-left flank of ruling Syriza party Panagiotis Lafazanis and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. © Alkis Konstantinidis
The ruling Greek party Syriza is set to split, with 25 far-left lawmakers intending to leave and form an independent party, a deputy speaker of the parliament announced on Friday.

The new party will be headed by former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis. The minister has been a vocal critic of outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras since he agreed to the third bailout deal proposed by foreign creditors.

The bailout program required austerity measures from the government, something that Syriza pledged to fight against during the previous election. Tsipras had to rely on opposition votes to pass it through the parliament, as 43 of Syriza’s 149 MPs voted against it.

The new left-wing ‘Popular Unity’ party would be the third-largest in the Greek 300-seat legislature, although it may not have long to enjoy the prominent position.

Tsipras announced his resignation on Thursday, saying it would allow Greece to hold a snap parliamentary election. He said Syriza is seeking public support for its leftist program at polling stations.

The prime minister resigned after securing an €86-billion credit line over three years for Athens. The money saved Greece from a looming national default, allowing it to pay a large chunk of its €3.4 billion debt to the European Central Bank.

The bailout came after month of tough negotiations between the Tsipras government and European officials, as Athens wrestled for more favorable terms.

The deal drew criticism not only in Greek but also in European countries. The center-right conservative bloc of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is one of the architects of the bailout, has been divided over it as much as Syriza.