Lawmakers from Greece’s ruling Syriza party announced Friday that they will form their own breakaway party, as the administration of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to buckle. Tsipras resigned Thursday and announced Greece would hold snap elections Sept. 20.
Local media reports said that 25 Syriza lawmakers would leave to join a new party, known as Leiki Anotita (Popular Unity), according to the BBC. The lawmakers were part of a faction within Syriza that opposed Greece’s plan to accept a third bailout from its European creditors, which they warned would only perpetuate the country's cycle of debt and economic stagnation. The move comes as Athens prepares for its fifth national election in six years.
Syriza came to power in January strongly opposing any further austerity measures, but reached a compromise with European creditors after months of acrimonious talks that threatened to break down and push Greece out of the eurozone.
The new party will be led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who was strongly opposed to the bailout deal. However, parliamentary speaker Zoe Konstantopulou and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, were reportedly not part of the new party.
Meanwhile, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos met Evangelos Meimarakis, head of the opposition conservative New Democracy party to ask them to try to form a new government, the Associated Press reported. Meimarakis has three days to seek coalition partners before having to return the mandate.
Announcing his resignation late Thursday, Tsipras defended his actions while in power, stating that he had taken the best deal available when he agreed to a three-year, $94 billion bailout in order to prevent a Greek default. The deal, which was accepted despite a public referendum in which Greek voters rejected further austerity measures, caused outrage over a perceived reversal that manifested in violent protests in Athens.
"I wish to be fully frank with you. We did not achieve the agreement that we were hoping for before the January elections," Tsipras said on Thursday, according to the AP. The bailout “was the best anyone could have achieved. We are obliged to observe this agreement, but at the same time we will do our utmost to minimize its negative consequences."
An unnamed senior official from the European Union told Reuters that the snap elections would not affect the ongoing bailout.
"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 October we have a meeting about a possible debt relief and we hope for further progress of the program."