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Alexis Tsipras steps down and calls early Greek elections

Published 20/08/2015

A woman carries a parasol for the strong afternoon sun as a group of tourists walk around the ruined ancient temple of Olympian Zeus, with the Acropolis hill in the background in central Athens (AP)
A woman carries a parasol for the strong afternoon sun as a group of tourists walk around the ruined ancient temple of Olympian Zeus, with the Acropolis hill in the background in central Athens (AP)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has said he is stepping down and calling early elections after suffering a rebellion within his left-wing Syriza party over the country' new bailout programme.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Tsipras defended his government's negotiating tactics and said Greece got the best deal possible for its three-year, 86 billion euro bailout from other eurozone countries.

He said that now that the country has secured its funding, he felt a "deep moral" obligation to lay his actions before the judgment of the Greek people.

Mr Tsipras will formally submit his resignation to the country's president. Elections will be held within a month, with government officials saying September 20 would be the likeliest date.

The bailout is conditional on Greece imposing stringent spending cuts and tax hikes - measures Mr Tsipras won elections in January vowing to repeal.

His U-turn in accepting the demands by the country's creditors led to outrage among hardliners in his Syriza party, with dozens voting against him during the bailout's ratification in parliament last week. The bailout was approved thanks to support from opposition parties.

Without the bailout, Greece faced defaulting on its debts and crashing out of Europe's joint currency. Mr Tsipras has insisted that although he disagrees with the bailout conditions, he had no choice but to accept and implement them.

He said: "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. The popular mandate I received on January 25 has exhausted its limits."

Annika Breidthardt, spokeswoman for the European Union's Executive Commission, said in a tweet: "EU commission takes note of announcement in Greece. Broad support for (bailout deal) and sticking to commitments will be key for success."

Mr Tsipras had delayed a decision on whether to call new elections until after Greece received the first instalment from the bailout and made a debt repayment to the European Central Bank.

Mr Tsipras continues to enjoy popular support and is far ahead of his opposition rivals in opinion polls, although none have been published since the bailout agreement was finalized.

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