Above: Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras looks on after speaking to legislators at the parliamentary vote.
Dimitri Lascaris Report: Tsipras is facing a no confidence vote, in the meantime the Eurogroup approves the deal
Dimitri Lascaris is a partner with the Canadian law firm of Siskinds, where he heads the firm’s securities class actions practice. Before joining Siskinds, he practiced securities law in the New York and Paris offices of a major Wall Street law firm. Last year, he was named by Canadian Business magazine as one of the 50 most influential business people in Canada, and was described by the magazine as “the fiercest advocate for shareholder rights” in Canada. He is currently prosecuting numerous securities class actions in Canada, including the Sino-Forest class action, in which his clients just negotiated the largest auditor settlement in Canadian history: a $117 million settlement with the accounting firm Ernst & Young.
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras managed to garner the support of the pro-European opposition parties in parliament to pass the latest bailout agreement with Europe and the IMF. In total, 222 MPs backed the deal, 64 opposed, and 11 abstained. But once again, he lost the support of the dissenting members of Syriza as 32 of them voted no, and 11 abstained.
To discuss all of this I’m joined by Dimitri Lascaris. He’s in Greece. He’s a lawyer with the Canadian law firm Siskinds where he heads the firm’s class action practice. Dimitri, great to have you on the Real News again.
DIMITRI LASCARIS, CLASS ACTIONS LAWYER IN CANADA: Happy to be back, Sharmini.
PERIES: So Dimitri, what does all this mean to the Syriza government now?
LASCARIS: Well, it has been I think a dramatic 48 hours, even by the standards of the Greek crisis. As the, within hours–perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. A day or two of the bailout negotiations having been announced as concluded, the parliament, the Greek government tabled a 400-page bill which basically gave to the parliamentarians less than 24 hours to digest and debate. Just before the debate began, 11 members of Syriza, the Left Platform of Syriza led by Panayiotis Lafazanis, the former energy minister and I think the putative leader of the Left Platform, issued a letter in which they called for the formation of a national anti-bailout movement, and asked for a nationwide mobilization at every level of the political organization of the Left Platform to oppose the bailout.
They didn’t explicitly call for the creation of a new party. They didn’t resign their seats. Nor did they resign from the party. But it came about as close as one could to a formal rupture with the party by calling for the creation of this new movement. It’s an explicit declaration of war on the leadership’s agenda, which is to implement this bailout.
Then we get to the parliamentary, the emergency parliamentary session itself. The prime minister asked the parliamentary president, Zoe Konstantopoulou, who is a member of the Let Platform and an outspoken critic of the bailout, the third bailout, to expedite the proceedings. And she more or less refused. And the first several hours of the session were actually consumed in procedural wrangling. The debate on the actual legislation to the extent you could call this debate at all happens, again, something like 4:00 in the morning. And she declared openly, one could hardly be more defiant, that she was not going to listen or follow the prime minister any more. That’s the way she put it. Panayiotis Lafazanis also spoke. Again, this is the leader of the Left Platform. And said that he pledged, he vowed, to smash–as he put it–the eurozone dictatorship. Apparently Costas Lapavitsas gave a speech which left some good impressions amongst those who had the opportunity to see it. Again, Costas being a member of the Left Platform and somebody we’ve talked about before on the program, and who’s been on the program [with the Real News].
The New Democracy leader also spoke, and although he supported the bailout, as did every single MP of New Democracy, and this is the center-right, more accurately described as radically neoliberal party within the Greek parliament. But he also warned ominously that his and his party’s support should not be taken for granted. Tsipras stood up, the prime minister, and basically said he regretted nothing that he had done, that it was the only alternative and the best alternative for his government to pursue under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
At the end of the day, and this is probably the most important thing to have happened, the government did not, the size of the Syriza rebellion actually grew somewhat. Several new additions to the rebellious faction. The result of this was that the government did not obtain 120 members, support of 120 members of the governing coalition. Or at least, of the party, Syriza. And apparently in Greece, I’m not an expert in Greek constitutional law by any means, but I’ve consulted with some people there who know the situation well. And I’m told that 120 seats is a constitutional minimum for the maintenance of a minority government. The result of this apparently is that Tsipras is now going to have to call for a confidence vote, which apparently he’s going to do in the weeks ahead. And if the numbers stay the same, he will lose that confidence vote. And he will be potentially obliged to call snap elections.
An interesting development in the parliament was that Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister, who did vote again against this deal as he had vowed to do, and he’s been very vocal this week in saying that the deal will not work. He also offered to resign his seat during the parliament, the emergency parliamentary session so that he could be replaced by somebody who in good conscience could vote for the bailout and support the government. But if he alone, if only his vote were to change because he’s replaced by somebody who’s prepared to support the government, I don’t think you’d still–I don’t think Syriza would get to 120, would be just shy of the 120 constitutional minimum. So they’re going to have to win back some support for this confidence vote in order for the government to survive.
Another thing that I think emerged over the last couple of days, some of the details of this bailout began to come out. One of them is that the Greek government has now agreed to subject any legislation–and it’s actually even broader than legislation. It could be regulations, for example. Any legislative or government action which is relevant, and I’m paraphrasing but this is pretty close to the actual language of the agreement, relevant to the objectives of the memorandum of understanding. That’s very broad language. And it says that if it is relevant to the objectives of the memorandum of understanding between the creditors and Greece, then Greece, the Greek government, has an obligation to consult and agree with the Troika prior to any legislative initiative or regulatory initiative becoming legally enforceable.
Effectively what this means, because the memorandum of understanding is so broad it touches upon labor market so-called reforms, it touches upon consumption taxes, income taxes, pensions, it’s so broad, and of course there are the primary budget surpluses, that almost any kind of legislation that one might imagine could fall within this very broad requirement of consultation and agreement with the Troika.
Effectively what the government has done is it’s surrendered sovereignty to the Troika. Greece has now become, under this agreement, a protectorate of the creditors of Greece. And given their past behavior, protecting the populace is about the last thing they can be counted on to do. So it’s certainly understandable that the rebellion is growing, and at this stage I’d say there is a relatively strong likelihood that this, there will be elections in the near future. And how those will play out is anybody’s guess.
PERIES: Well, a lot of the Left Platform that obviously voted against this has stated that they still support the government, but doesn’t support this agreement. So is there a possibility that if it comes to a confidence vote that they will support Alexis Tsipras and the government?
LASCARIS: It’s possible. But it’s hard to imagine. There’s been an escalation by means of the issuance of that letter. Interestingly, the one I mentioned that Panayiotis Lafazanis and 11 MPs of Syriza signed, that came pretty close, as I discussed, to being a formal rupture with the party. The question is how many people are going to follow them if in fact they do formally cede from the party. And you’re right, it is possible that some people if they’re put to the choice of actually bringing the government down may switch their vote and support the party. But given the escalation that’s happened and also some of the language that the parliamentary president used was very strong. She said, she accused Tsipras of having thrown to the dogs those who had resisted. Those within Syriza who had resisted this bailout agreement.
PERIES: So is her presidency at stake, now? Will Tsipras actually throw her out, which almost happened last time around?
LASCARIS: Well, I had understood that she had actually resigned. And it’s not entirely clear to me why she still is the parliamentary speaker. I suspect that it’s not an easy matter for the parliamentary speaker to be replaced. And doing it at this time in particular when they’re trying to ram through enormous pieces of legislation very quickly, could complicate the government’s timetable. But I can’t see her remaining within that position much longer. It would be astounding to me if she were to remain within that position much longer given that her statement to parliament–she openly attacked the prime minister and declared that she would defy him in the future.
PERIES: And she has enormous support among the public. You and I witnessed her entering several meetings while we were there, and you couldn’t not notice how much of the popular support she actually had when she walked into a room.
LASCARIS: It’s true. I think there was a remarkable moment, Sharmini. It was a large auditorium, it was very hot in there but nonetheless it was packed. When she walked into the room most of the people stood up and gave her a standing ovation. And this was within 24 hours of her having defied the prime minister. And all the polls, what they’re worth in Greece, indicated that the prime minister was quite popular despite the capitulation in Brussels on July 13. and nonetheless her defiance of the prime minister apparently had earned her the respect of the people in the audience. And I think that her, the courses of action she’s taken since then, her continued defiance and her standing up in parliament, not just to the leadership of Syriza but to the leadership of New Democracy, and PASOK, and being serially attacked by them. And she’s with great dignity and composure fended off those attacks and stood by her convictions.
So I think she, it would be quite interesting to see what would happen if she were to emerge as the leader of this new anti-bailout movement. And she may well. That would be I think a very serious challenge to the Syriza leadership and to their prospects for success in this kind of election.
PERIES: And just to remind you, we’re talking about Zoe Konstantopoulou, who is the speaker and the president of the parliament of Greece. Dimitri, I thank you so much for joining us again at this late hour in Greece.
LASCARIS: A pleasure as always. Thanks, Sharmini.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.