Greek lawmakers break from ruling party

Far-left members of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ ruling Syriza party have broken off to form their own party, after unsuccessfully trying to block passage of a $95 billion bailout package from the European Central Bank.

The 25 lawmakers announced Friday they will create the Popular Unity party, becoming the third-largest party in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.

The Popular Unity members are those who expressed disappointment with Tsipras after he reversed a vow not to implement new austerity measures in exchange for bailout funding from the European Union.

Tsipras, who resigned Thursday and called for snap elections September 20, has said he fought hard to keep his promise and settled for the best deal he could get.

After months of contentious negotiations with Greece’s creditors — its European neighbors, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — Tsipras agreed to more tax increases and pension cuts.

This is Greece’s third bailout in five years, as it struggles to keep ahead of its debts.

In a televised address announcing his resignation after just seven months as prime minister, Tsipras said: “I want to submit to the Greek people everything I have done so that they can decide once more,” whether he and his party should remain in power.

Effectively, Tsipras is testing whether Greek voters will hand his party more seats in parliament to stay in power, with fewer opposition lawmakers. The defection of the lawmakers forming the Popular Unity party, however, may make that more difficult.

Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party came to power in snap parliamentary elections last January after campaigning on an anti-austerity platform and promising to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s massive international bailouts.

On Thursday, Greece repaid $3.5 billion to the European Central Bank, just hours after European officials disbursed funding from the European Stability Mechanism.

Last Friday, eurozone finance ministers approved the first $29 billion payment of the bailout deal for Greece after the Greek parliament approved the package earlier that day.

The eurozone decision saved Greece from default and kept it from being ousted from Europe’s 19-nation euro currency bloc.