Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned Thursday and called early elections, an attempt to get a new, stronger mandate to implement a three-year bailout program that sparked a rebellion within his radical-left party.
In an address broadcast to the nation, Tsipras said his government had gotten the best deal possible for the country when it agreed to an 86-billion-euro ($95 billion) bailout from other eurozone countries.
The rescue was all that kept Greece from a disastrous exit from the euro, but came with strict terms to cut spending and raise taxes – the very measures Tsipras had pledged to fight when he won elections in January.
Tsipras has insisted that although he disagrees with the conditions of the bailout terms, he had no choice but to accept and implement them to keep Greece in the euro, which the vast majority of Greeks want.
With the country’s finances now secured, Tsipras said he felt obliged to let the Greek people evaluate his work.
“Now that this difficult cycle has ended … I feel the deep moral and political obligation to set before your judgment everything I have done, both right and wrong, the achievements and the omissions,” he said in the address. “The popular mandate I received on January 25 has exhausted its limits.”
Tsipras formally submitted his resignation to the country’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, to begin the election process. This will involve letting the two main opposition parties – the conservative New Democracy and the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn – try to form a government. Each party can spend up to three days trying to do so, and New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis said he will use his available time. Neither party, however, is expected to have the support in parliament to be able to form a government.
Tsipras did not mention a date for the election, although it will have to be held within the next month, with government officials saying Sept. 20 is the likeliest date.