Tsipras wants to give pensioners Christmas bonus
The Greek parliament will vote today on a Christmas bonus for poor pensioners. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to use around 617 million euros of the primary surplus to give roughly 1.6 million Greeks with pensions of less than 850 euros a month a thirteenth monthly payment. Is this an urgent measure to help struggling pensioners or the start of the next election campaign?
All just part of the election campaign?
In reaction to Tsipras's plans the European creditors decided on Wednesday to suspend the planned debt relief measures for the time being. The next trial of strength between the Greek prime minister and the creditors is about to begin, Il Sole 24 Ore predicts:
“The situation suddenly escalated once more when Alexis Tsipras decided to spend a little money - at a time when his approval ratings are plummeting and he has lost his closest allies against the austerity policy: Matteo Renzi has resigned, François Hollande won't run for re-election and Barack Obama's presidency is coming to an end. … The creditors, who weren't expecting this move, feel aggrieved and the hawks from northern Europe have promised a tough response. The Greeks see the expansive measures as a political act of desperation. The goal is to revive support for Syriza (which is losing against the liberal-conservative Nea Dimokratia party in the polls). Because observers see it as increasingly likely that Tsipras will call early elections.”
Opposition must not go on betraying the Greeks
Now the opposition can show whether it stands by the people or will kowtow to the creditors, the pro-government daily Avgi explains:
“Will it vote against a measure that would give one and a half million citizens a temporary financial reprieve? Or will it withdraw, attack the government and thus support certain extreme circles that believe Greece is their colony and doesn't have the right to decide on anything on its own? When the European Commission doesn't denounce Athens but instead distances itself from the tactics of the hardliners in Berlin and when the responsible commissioner says that the Greek government is not breaking any rules, then only a very bold Greek party would have the insolence to question the elected government's rights here. In all the years of austerity the conservative Nea Demokratia has only ever sent the message that it places the creditors' interests above those of the citizens.”
Athens can be naughty now
Tsipras has extra room for manoeuvre before the elections in France next spring, blogger Pitsirikos believes:
“A victory for Marine Le Pen would pave the way for a referendum on France leaving the Eurozone. Angela Merkel - who is preparing for the German elections - can't exert any pressure on Tsipras. … From now until April he can be naughty and disobedient - and he knows it. Tsipras may be a political fraudster but he's not dumb. He will try to exploit the vacuum created by the various elections in Europe. Already, his government is preparing to announce support for other social groups in a precarious position. Tsipras will take advantage of the fact that the German government can't react for a few months. He will pursue a determined course with the elections in mind. And he has the advantage that he can choose the right time to hold elections.”
Schäuble knew better
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble believes he has been proven right, the website Marketfair suspects:
“At the last Eurogroup meeting Schäuble's colleagues said that the measures were too tough and needed to be relaxed because Tsipras had now taken the path of austerity. Schäuble insisted that the Greek government would repeat the mistakes of the past as soon as it was given a little leeway. … Now he can rejoice because he sees Tsipras's announcement as complete confirmation that easing the measures is not an option. If the creditors don't go along with Tsipras's blackmail, which seems the most likely scenario, he will have no alternative but to announce new elections. ... And if that happens he will no doubt promise advantages for various groups of society, because this time he will hardly be called on to fulfil them.”