Updated at 2 p.m. ET
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has announced that he will step down, paving the way for early elections following a bruising battle over austerity measures linked to a European bailout package that caused a major split in the leftist ruling party.
“We did not secure the agreement we wanted but it was the best we could do under the circumstances,” Tsipras said in a nationally televised address Thursday evening.
He said Greece is obliged to fulfill the agreement but also to mitigate its adverse consequences.
“The political mandate of the January 25 elections has exhausted its limits and now the Greek people have to have their say,” Tsipras said.
“Shortly, I am going to submit my resignation and the resignation of my government to the president,” he added.
“I will seek the vote of the Greek people to rule and continue our government program,” he said.
The date for the fresh elections, less than nine months after polls swept Syriza to power, is set for the elections is Sept. 20.
Tsipras, a member of the Syriza party, pushed through a vote on the unpopular austerity measures that were a part of the third bailout in five years of the shaky Greek financial system, which has been teetering on the brink of default.
As a condition of the bailout, Tsipras’ government was forced to accept deep cuts to the state sector, including the pension system — a move that angered many ordinary Greeks, especially ruling party supporters.
As the BBC explains:
“Mr Tsipras had won power on a manifesto of opposing the stringent austerity conditions that he has now accepted.
“He said he was forced to do so because a majority of Greeks wanted to stay in the eurozone, and this could not be achieved in any other way.
“Greece remains under strict capital controls, with weekly limits on cash withdrawals for Greek citizens.”
“The certainty is that the need for elections has arisen,” Energy and Environment Minister Panos Skourletis said on state television earlier Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
The government “has lost its majority (in parliament) – one can’t avoid this,” he said.