ATHENS: Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis shared a vision once, but the double act of the Greek debt drama’s most colorful characters now appears well and truly over.
When Tsipras swept to power as prime minister in January, hiring maverick economist Varoufakis as his finance minister, both vowed to stand up to Athens’ much-loathed creditors and bring an end to the austerity they blamed for strangling the Greek economy.
With a shared love of motorbikes and a hatred of neckties, they were the fearsome twosome who took Greek politics by storm.
But eight months later, with Greece facing snap elections in which Varoufakis refuses to run, the rift between the pair is growing uncomfortably public — even if analysts say it is unlikely to do Tsipras much damage as he seeks a fresh mandate at the head of radical-left party Syriza.
The polls on September 20 will be “quite sad and fruitless,” Varoufakis told Australian broadcaster ABC.
“The party that I served and the leader that I served have decided to change course completely and to espouse an economic policy that makes absolutely no sense.”
Tsipras quit on August 20, triggering new elections, after a major rebellion within Syriza over Greece’s huge third international bailout left him barely able to govern.
Varoufakis had resigned six weeks earlier, a day after Greece’s referendum on the proposed bailout, and as negotiations with the creditors — the EU, IMF and European Central Bank — grew increasingly bitter.
His confrontational tactics had infuriated the creditors for months, and in a blog post announcing his resignation he said he had been “made aware” that his departure would be helpful to Tsipras in continuing the talks.
“I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride,” Varoufakis wrote, adding that he would “fully support” the prime minister.
‘This deal won’t work’
But that was before Tsipras’ spectacular U-turn. Just days later, Tsipras agreed to a deal that would see Greece accept 86 billion euros ($96 billion) in exchange for sweeping reforms — more austerity of the kind that voters had just rejected in a referendum.
Since then Varoufakis, never one to mince his words, has repeatedly blasted the deal in his frequent interviews with the international media.
“Ask anyone who knows anything about Greece’s finances and they will tell you this deal is not going to work,” he told BBC radio.
Tsipras has hit back, saying of Varoufakis: “Being a good economist doesn’t make you a good politician.”
And in a pointed tribute to Varoufakis’ replacement — who is as discreet and tight-lipped as his predecessor was confrontational — he added: “Euclid Tsakolotos has done a marvelous job… If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have achieved a deal.”