PRIME Minister Alexis Tsipras has been trying hard, all week, to persuade Greeks that he is in control of the situation and knows what he is doing. This assurance, from the PM of a state that is technically bankrupt, has no functioning banking sector and depends on outside assistance to stave off total financial collapse indicates a complete loss of touch with reality.
In his address to the people on Wednesday, he repeated his accusations of blackmail and urged people to vote ‘no’ in Sunday’s referendum, because a big vote against the bailout proposal would strengthen his government’s bargaining power in securing a loan agreement. Yesterday he went as far as to claim that within 48 hours of a ‘no’ vote in the referendum there would be an agreement with the lenders. Did he mean that two days after the Greek people had rejected the lenders’ conditions the lenders would agree a new deal with improved terms?
This is the type of simplistic argument, he expects people to buy. Yet on Tuesday a leaked letter by Tsipras showed that he would accept most of the conditions of the bailout his government had turned down a few days earlier and was urging Greeks to reject. What was the point of tomorrow’s referendum if Tsipras had decided to accept most of the terms he wanted the people to reject?
With banks closed, capital controls in place and cash withdrawals limited to €60 per day, not to mention the fact that the state is technically bankrupt after its failure to meet the deadline for the repayment of a loan to the IMF, talk of a strong bargaining position sounds like gallows humour. Without the support from the ECB, which is conditional on a bailout agreement, the bank holiday is unlikely to end, while cash withdrawals might stop. And if there is a strong ‘no’ vote tomorrow, things will only get worse, with total financial collapse the most likely outcome.
It has become crystal clear that Brussels and particularly Germany want a regime change. The Syriza government is considered totally untrustworthy and neither the Eurogroup nor Germany was prepared to engage in new negotiations with it this week. Their line is wait for the referendum result, in the hope Greeks vote ‘yes’ and Tsipras would be forced to step down. This does not show much respect for democracy by Greece’s EU partners, who have openly tried to influence the result of the referendum.
The president of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said a ‘no’ vote would dramatically weaken Greece’s negotiating position, making a mockery of Tsipras’ assertion to the contrary, while the ECB refused to say whether it would support the banks in the event of a ‘no’ vote. Hopefully tomorrow the majority of Greeks will show they have a better understanding of what is at stake when they cast their vote, than their prime minister.