Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, hoping to strengthen his hold on power in snap elections after seven months in office in which he fought Greece’s creditors for a better bailout deal but had to cave in.
Tsipras submitted his resignation to President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and asked for the earliest possible election date.
Government officials said the aim was to hold the election on Sept. 20, with Tsipras seeking to quell a rebellion in his leftist Syriza party and seal public support for the bailout programme, Greece’s third since 2010, that he negotiated.
“The political mandate of the January 25 elections has exhausted its limits and now the Greek people have to have their say,” Tsipras said in a televised address.
His decision to return to the ballot box deepens political uncertainty on the very day Greece began receiving funds under its 86 billion-euro ($96 billion) bailout programme with foreign creditors.
But a snap election should allow Tsipras to capitalise on his popularity with Greek voters before the toughest parts of the programme begin to bite, and may allow him to return to power in a stronger position without anti-bailout rebels in Syriza to slow him down.
Factbox: Greek constitution on snap elections:
– According to the constitution, if a government resigns within a year of the last election, the country’s president must hand an exploratory mandate to the leaders of the opposition to try to form a government, starting with the largest party.
– The mandate lasts for three days and if efforts prove fruitless it is handed over to the second-largest party and then to the third-largest.
– If these efforts to form a new government fail, then the president calls a general election.
– If Tsipras resigns, the mandate is handed to the conservative New Democracy party and, if that fails to form a government, to the far-right Golden Dawn.
– However, this procedure may be side-stepped as the opposition leaders are likely to hand back the mandate to the president, clearing the way for snap polls that must take place within 30 days from the date they are announced.