Alexis Tsipras had to resign. The prime minister of Greece was elected in January on the promise of curbing the austerity that has blighted the citizens of the small, Mediterranean country.
What the 41-year-old delivered were the most severe cuts to date, attached to an 86 billion euro bailout following sufficient sabre rattling from Europe’s big beasts to convince Tsipras a eurozone exit was a possibility.
Speaking on national television on Thursday, Tsipras defended recent negotiations with eurozone leaders, stating he landed a “good deal for the country.”
Yet the bailout, the third given to Greece since 2010, sparked a mutiny. More than a quarter of Syriza’s parliamentarians abandoned Tsipras last week, dismayed that the core party plank had been gutted under pressure from Brussels.
The prime minister’s resignation will likely trigger a fresh election, with 20th September scheduled as a possible date. However, outside his party Tsipras has not been condemned.
It is a paradox of the Greek situation that the man who delivered the exact opposite of what he promised remains a popular figure among the masses. So popular, in fact, that he is likely to return to his post should Greek voters back him at the polls next month.
His resignation is a gamble. Tsipras is betting he will be returned to power, a triumph that will quell the leftist insurgency within his own party while providing a mandate to move forward with the most pinching terms of the recent bailout, scheduled to start after Greeks go to the ballots.
Greece remains trapped, straddled by crippling austerity and financial collapse. Tsipras was elected to perform the impossible task of avoiding the grexit but stopping the cuts. That plan failed. But by standing up to the European creditors, for many Greeks, Tsipras may have done enough.