Greece's Varoufakis turns on former party and leader during vote

 21 Sep 2015 - 0:00

Greece's Varoufakis turns on former party and leader during vote
 Alexis Tsipras (R) and Yanis Varoufakis look on during the vote for the president of Greece's parliament in Athens in this file phot.

 

BY JEREMY GAUNT

ATHENS: Two fiery supporters-turned-opponents of Greece's leftist Syriza party rounded on its leader Alexis Tsipras on Sunday, implicitly accusing him of capitulating to mainstream European interests and of betraying the Greek people.

Yanis Varoufakis, who as finance minister infuriated Greece's international creditors by refusing to go along with their demands for austerity in return for cash, said the general election being held on Sunday was "to nullify" the wishes of Greeks.

Zoe Konstantopoulou, the firebrand former parliament speaker who sought to delay a vote on accepting a new bailout, said voters would punish those who had ignored their wishes.

Greeks voted overwhelming in a referendum in July against accepting a European Union and International Monetary Fund cash for reforms plan, only for then-prime minister Tsipras to accept a more stringent one in order to keep Greece in the euro zone.

"The people will thwart the plans of those who want to push them into a corner and impose bailouts against their will," Konstantopoulou said as she voted. "The new generations know who betrayed them and will take initiatives to restore democracy in our land."

Varoufakis said in a statement to The Press Project, a Greek website, that Sunday's elections served two purposes.

"First to nullify the brave 'No' which 62 percent of the Greek population (under media fear-mongering and closed banks-capital controls) said to dead end, humiliating and irrational bailout programs and memoranda," he said.

"Second, the 'legalization' of the capitulation that followed the signing of the dead end, humiliating and irrational 3rd (bailout) memorandum."

Tsipras was in what was expected to be a close election fight with the conservative New Democracy party.

During the tense and ultimately failed negotiations against creditor-imposed austerity, the Varoufakis and Konstantopoulou were vehemently opposed to compromises with the EU/IMF that involved further economic sacrifices by Greeks.

Varoufakis, in particular, became something of an international celebrity, given his fluent English, rugged good-looks, penchant for motorbikes and blunt pronouncements to mainstream officials such as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

He said he would vote for Popular Unity, an anti-bailout group that split from Syriza. Konstantopoulou had already said she would back them.

Reuters