Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pledged Sunday to improve the terms of Greece’s new bailout agreement with its international creditors, in an attempt to garner support for his leadership two weeks ahead of a snap election.
Tsipras, head of left-wing Syriza party which held power from January until August, called on voters to bring him back to power, warning them against a return to "the dark period of corruption, cronyism and power networks" that preceded his administration. He also defended Syriza’s record on the bailout. “The battle to improve it is far from over," Tsipras said, according to the Associated Press.
His previous government was elected on a promise to overturn austerity measures, which Syriza warns are choking Greece’s embattled economy.
The party, however, failed to live up to their vow, and ended up securing an agreement for a third bailout worth $94 billion from Greece’s international creditors in July, which also included privatization and pension reform measures.
The popular outrage over Syriza appearing to cave in to its creditors triggered violent protests in Athens, and caused a major rift to form among the party's lawmakers.
Tsipras spoke at the Thessaloniki International Fair, where the current administration traditionally outlines its economic program for the coming year. However, the country is currently ruled by an interim government following Tsipras’ resignation, which was triggered by a wave of defections from Syriza over outrage at his perceived capitulation.
Recent polls reportedly show that Syriza’s high approval ratings have evaporated, leaving it neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy Party.
University of Macedonia political scientist and pollster Nikos Marantzidis told the Wall Street Journal that the two parties were effectively tied, and that neither of them was likely to win a majority in parliament, calling for coalition-building.
Several Syriza defectors have also formed a breakaway party named Leiki Anotita (Popular Unity), promising to take a tougher stance against Greece’s creditors.
However, Tsipras defended his record, pointing to concessions that he had managed to wrest out of Greece’s creditors, and boasted of a "moral defeat" inflicted on Greece’s biggest creditor, Germany.
"Europe is not the same after the 7-month negotiation with our country, Europe was shocked by the tough battle of a determined nation," he said. “We have compromised but we have not been compromised.”
He also criticized New Democracy, claiming that they championed austerity policies, including mass layoffs and weakening labor laws, while promising that his new administration would support "collaborative social economy ventures with subsidized wage costs."
An unnamed senior official from the European Union has said that the snap elections would not affect the bailout program. "No... this was really an expected step and for many people a desired step to get to a clearer structure in the Greek government," he said in August. "In October we have a meeting about a possible debt relief and we hope for further progress of the program."