Alexis Tsipras is set to promise on Sunday that the upturn in Greece is just around the corner
Athens - AFP
He came to power vowing a debt revolution, but after a rollercoaster year of economic meltdown forcing him to abandon his election promises, a less bouncy but still charismatic Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing the music.
His leftist government has been whittled down to a parliamentary majority of three, his popular appeal is slipping, and Greece's international creditors do not seem to share his urgency for a debt deal to jumpstart the country's recovery.
On Monday, Greece will mark a year under the first leftist government in its history.
A day earlier, Tsipras will address his party in a celebratory speech, promising that the upturn is just around the corner.
"I believe 2016 will be the year that Greece will surprise the world economic community," Tsipras told Bloomberg TV in Davos this week.
"I'm confident that all our partners want a successful and timely concluded review because they can understand that time is part of our strategy," he said.
"If we manage to do it the sooner we'll leave the vicious circle and come back to growth soon."
Tsipras was elected in January 2015 after persuading Greeks that they no longer had to grovel to foreign powers for their economic survival.
He argued that debt-hit Greece would never recover if it continued to be tied to international bailouts focused on spending cuts and tax hikes. He promised to aggressively broker a new economic deal.
Within weeks, Tsipras and his firebrand finance minister Yanis Varoufakis had knocked heads with the country's creditors -- the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- and the stage was set for six months of acrimonious talks that nearly saw Greece pushed out of the eurozone.
It wasn't until July that Tsipras -- staring into the unknown and a possible return to the drachma -- ditched Varoufakis and signed another economic rescue for 86 billion euros ($93 billion) accompanied by more spending cuts.
The decision split his radical leftist Syriza party and the Tsipras government resigned. But the adroit former student sit-in leader weathered the storm and got himself re-elected in September, albeit with a reduced majority.
Still in an improbable coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks party, Tsipras now has 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.
Few expect his administration to complete its four-year term, and he faces an imminent challenge in implementing an unpopular pension and tax overhaul mandated by Greece's three-year bailout.
Opinion polls for the first time show Syriza falling behind the conservative New Democracy party which recently elected a liberal reformer as chief.
However, analysts argue that with an unprecedented refugee challenge on the European Union's doorstep and Britain threatening to leave the bloc, Brussels has bigger fish to fry than Tsipras.
- No more arm wrestling -
"We think the government will manage to carry out the reforms despite its small parliamentary majority, because it wants to begin talks on debt relief," says Natixis economist Jesus Castillo.
Creditors "will not want to go back to an arm wrestling match" with Greece given the deteriorating state of the global economy and continued conflict in the Middle East, he adds.
Standard and Poor's on Friday raised its credit rating for Greek debt by one notch, saying it expected Athens to meet the conditions attached to the latest bailout package.
Greece's sovereign rating went up to B- from CCC+, which removes it from the range of being vulnerable to default.
Nevertheless, Greece's youngest leader in over a century "lost a lot of time to adapt and see reality", argues political analyst George Sefertzis, adding that the 41-year-old premier "is still in search of a new equilibrium".
Tsipras is now locked in a delicate negotiation with an uncertain outcome -- exactly what happened with his conservative predecessor Antonis Samaras in his final six months in power in 2014, Sefertzis says.
"We are losing time without obtaining a result, and without having a clear idea of where the negotiations will lead," he adds.
Athens has been waiting since November to begin debating relief measures for its crushing public debt -- nearly 200 percent of GDP -- which is a condition the IMF has set for continuing to participate in the Greek bailout as demanded by Germany and other hardline eurozone nations.
Further delay in talks on the evaluation of Greece's reforms and debt relief could ultimately doom the new bailout, the Greek finance minister warned Monday.
"If (the evaluation) is not concluded within a reasonable time frame this programme cannot work," Euclid Tsakalotos said.