ATHENS (Reuters) - Lawmakers from Greece’s ruling Syriza party reacted with dismay and fury on Thursday to a package of reforms creditors offered Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in return for cash, with one senior party official calling it a “murderous” proposal.
Opposition to the plan was voiced by lawmakers on both the hardline left as well as more moderate voices in the party, like Labour Minister Panos Skourletis, who said Greeks could be sure that no agreement that adds burdens on them would be signed.
The starkly negative reaction points to a growing risk of an outright revolt within the radical leftist party, which could prompt Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to resort to early elections to overcome divisions should he accept the deal.
Avgi, the Syriza party newspaper, headlined its Thursday edition: “A continuation of austerity? No, thanks!”, while the top-selling centre-left daily Ta Nea splashed: “Death toll required for an agreement.”
Details of the plan drawn up by European and IMF creditors were leaked by sources on Thursday. They show demands for pension cuts, tax hikes and asset sales that clearly cross what Tsipras has said are his non-negotiable “red lines”.
Tsipras was outlined the plan at late-night talks in Brussels with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and said afterwards he thought a deal was “within sight”. But some of his senior party members took a different line.
“(Juncker) took on the dirty work and conveyed the most vulgar, most murderous, toughest plan when everyone hoped that the deal was closing,” Alexis Mitropoulos, a deputy parliament speaker and senior official within Syriza told Mega TV. “And that at a time when we were finally moving towards an agreement we all want because we rule out a rift leading to tragedy.”
Deputy Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas said the proposal was below expectations “in every way”, adding: “If reports are confirmed, obviously we cannot accept them.”
Lawmakers were incensed in particular by a proposal to scrap a benefit for low-income pensioners of 30 to 230 euros ($34 to $259) per month and a value-added tax change that Tsipras said would raise the levy on electricity by 10 percentage points.
Such measures are anathema to Syriza, which in January became the first radical leftist party to assume power in modern Greek history on a pledge to end austerity and raise living standards for Greeks battered by five years of hardship.
On the streets of Athens, the creditors’ proposal was met with a mix of anger and resignation. “The program they have proposed won’t work unless they want to drive Greece to poverty,” said 70-year-old pensioner Zois Seferli.
Speaking in parliament, Deputy Labour Minister Dimitris Stratoulis said Athens would reject the “disgraceful and shameful” proposal by lenders who want “to subdue, to crush any resistance from the leftist government”.
The angry reactions piled pressure on Tsipras, who has to balance efforts to keep his party together with the simultaneous need to seal a deal with creditors to get aid flowing into Greek state coffers before cash runs out in the coming days or weeks.
Greek stocks fell 3 percent on Thursday on fears that the creditors’ demands would prevent any quick accord.
The opposition New Democracy party of former prime minister Antonis Samaras called Wednesday’s talks between Greece and its creditors a “negotiating Waterloo.”
“(The lenders) have taken everything they wanted all these years, which we were trying to ward off, and put it all in one proposal,” said Adonis Georgiadis, the conservative party’s parliamentary spokesman. “Napoleon fared better at Waterloo.”
Samaras later came out to urge Tsipras to avoid snap elections and seek instead a national consensus on the bailout negotiations with other political parties.
In a sign of the limited options facing the government, one Syriza official said any deal with lenders would win approval from lawmakers after both sides made concessions.
“A solution ... requires realism and mutual concessions, without ultimatums,” tweeted Dimitris Papadimoulis, vice-president of the European Parliament and a Syriza party member. Backing Tsipras was “a patriotic duty,” he said.
Additional reporting by Gina Kalovyrna; Editing by Paul Taylor