Greece debt crisis: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tries to calm his increasingly fractured Syriza party with internal vote on bailout plans

Some MPs fear the party's central committee is in danger of simply 'signing off' on Mr Tsipras's policies

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The Independent Online

Greece’s Prime Minister made a last-minute attempt to secure unity in his fractured Syriza party, with the offer of an internal referendum this Sunday.

At a meeting of the party’s 200-strong central committee in Athens, Alexis Tsipras said that rebel MPs should either support him or come out into the open.

“Whoever thinks there can be a better government or Prime Minister, then they should speak up,” Mr Tsipras said in his opening address to the party’s governing body.

The referendum, which would ask dissenters in the party whether or not they supported his plans to reach a deal with the country’s creditors, would precede, and possibly negate, an emergency party congress due to take place in September.

 

Mr Tsipras has been struggling to hold the party together since pushing through a bailout plan in the wake of a national referendum. In a parliamentary vote days after the referendum, 38 of Syriza’s 149 MPs voted against the plan because of what they saw as its pandering to the austerity measures sought by the Eurogroup and the IMF.

Seventeen left-wing Syriza members resigned from its central committee ahead of a vote over Sunday’s referendum. Dimitri Kodelas, an MP who resigned, said the committee was in danger of simply “signing off” on Mr Tsipras’s policies.

Many party officials indicated that a September conference would be preferable to the vote on Sunday as this might avoid exposing Syriza’s internal wounds. The emergency congress, which is likely to be open to all Syriza supporters, could also allow Mr Tsipras to weed out far-left members and reshape his party, observers said.

The scale of infighting within Syriza has threatened to fracture the party and the ruling coalition, with senior officials saying early elections may be inevitable.

Mr Tsipras faces a war on many fronts. Representatives from the international creditors are in Athens to check on the measures the country needs to enforce in order to start negotiations over its third bailout.

Meanwhile, his former finance minister is under investigation. Parliament is set to determine whether there are grounds to indict Yanis Varoufakis following revelations of a plan to establish an alternative currency in the event of Greece leaving the eurozone.

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