ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday he may have to call an early election to bolster a parliamentary majority that has been strained by bailout reforms demanded by creditors.
About three dozen of his 149 lawmakers have refused to back reforms agreed by Tsipras at a European summit on July 13, forcing him to rely on opposition support to push through the legislation in exchange for a third bailout.
“I would be the last person to want elections, if I had the secured parliamentary majority to make it through to the end of the four-year term,” he said in an interview with Sto Kokkino radio station.
“But if I don’t have a parliamentary majority, we will be forced to go to elections.”
Several ministers have suggested that an election could be held in the autumn, most likely after final talks on the multi-billion euro bailout program are wrapped up.
EU/IMF envoys started bailout talks with the government in Athens this week. They may demand additional reform measures to be legislated in August before releasing any further loans.
But Tsipras said he would not implement anything beyond what was agreed in Brussels earlier this month.
Months of arduous negotiations and capital controls have taken their toll on the feeble Greek economy and the leftist government would want to avoid any further austerity measures.
He said Greece would post a zero primary budget surplus, or possibly even a deficit, this year, depending on the economy’s performance in the coming months.
“I know what is the framework of the decision we signed,” Tsipras said. “Regardless of whether or not we agree or disagree with these conventional obligations, we will implement them. But nothing beyond that.”
Members of Syriza’s central committee are meeting on Thursday to discuss the future of the fragmented party, which is under pressure due to the revolt by members of the far-left Left Platform wing.
Tsipras said an emergency party congress could be held in September to redefine party strategy.
Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Writing by Helen Popper, Editing by Angus MacSwan