Shrewd Tsipras builds bridges as Venizelos refuses Mandate, talks behind scenes to Troika.

In a first for Greek politics, Evangelo Venizelos (left) the leader of Greece’s PASOK Party refused to accept the President’s mandate before he’d been offered it. This breaks the record set by Antonis Samaras last Monday, in giving up on the task after 210 minutes.

What’s going on here is shadow boxing ready for what is almost certainly going to be Round Two – another election. This growing view was given further weight today when The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the EU/ECB/IMF troika has cancelled its Athens visit planned for mid-May. No new appointments have been made, and the Brussels line – for once, probably fairly straight – is that they would have to await political developments in Greece.

In this context, Alexis Tsipras is being more shrewd than most commentators realise. He has spent a lot of time meeting with Party leaders who have no seats in parliament – Louka Katseli of Social Pact, as well as the Ecogreens, who said they had some reservations about Syriza’s position and required clarification about its stance towards the memorandum. Tsipras has also scheduled a meeting with the Anticapitalist Left (Antarsya).

Sources explain that the Syriza leader’s plan is to go into Election II with a united ‘Green Left’ that encourages protest voters to go along with the critical mass – especially those who didn’t vote from a sense of hopelessness the first time around.

This morning I spoke with The Slog’s resident Brussels mole.

“Tsipras has been impressive thus far,” he observed. “And that on top of Sunday’s result has scared some of the more aware people here. There’s a real fear of market meltdown. But I was told yesterday that the Troika is certain there will be a second election. My guess is that Venizelos is still their main cypher. But I’ve no idea how he expects to get the initiative back.”

My Brussels contact has no knowledge (or even hint) of an ‘action’ being prepared by Berlin-sur-Brussels to install a technocrat interim government, although several Slog sources in Athens fully expect this, and think Venizelos to be actively playing for it.

“He is a traitor,” says one source on the Left, “And Samaras the same. They cannot win by the ballot box, so they hope to win by Brussels pressure.”

However, European Parliament President Martin Schulz yesterday took a soft line, saying that he intends to visit Athens for contacts with politicians, including Syriza head Alexis Tsipras. Speaking in Berlin, he said that Greece needs a growth policy and an employment policy. Although rejecting any possibility of renegotiation of the Brussels Accord terms, he was at pains to distance himself from Berlin-style scorched earth.

“If the fiscal pact is accompanied by growth incentives, it is possible that a majority can be achieved in the Greek parliament,” Schulz said, adding that “following the complicated outcome of the elections in Athens, it is important now for us to speak with the Greeks.” He stressed that “the aim is not for us to harm Greece and this is why the rest of the Parliamentary forces must also be certain of this.”

Of course not, why on earth would you do that Martin? I mean, if Greece has an epi and walks out, you’re screwed, right?

It should be Interesting Times on the European markets today. If anything of real significance occurs, the chances are you’ll be reading it here first.

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