On the surface, Tsipras’ decision to hold a Referendum on the EU agreement proposal seems irreprehensible. This is a crucial decision for Greece which would have far reaching economic and political implications for the next few years (Drachma vs Euro, Russia/EU influence). Democracy requires that the people should decide.
This narrative is nonsense.
Tsipras has been catapulted into power by the promise of “no more austerity and debt repudiation”, a promise that was impossibile to keep. Now Tsipras is calling for a Referendum and is declaring he is campaigning for a “NO” to the current agreement with creditors.
If the Greek prime minister really thinks that Greece would be better off with no agreement (and with a full blown banking and sovereign debt crisis) he should simply refuse the agreement and accept the consequences. This choice would be perfectly coherent with his political mandate. Of course, the prime minister realizes that this choice would be suicidal for his own political career, let alone for the country. So he backs off.
The alternative of accepting the (much diluted) “austerity” plan would also be detrimental to his political career, as he would be accused by Syriza’s left-winges of “high treason”. In addition, acceptance may require an alliance with the moderate left/centre-right in Parliament in order to approve the plan. That would also end his ambitions as the leader of the left.
By calling a Referendum Tsipras is “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds”, that is, he is effectively accepting (without saying) the EU plan by Pilatesquely delegating the decision to the voters, while keeping is political virginity as the leader of the left. This is, litterally, an irresponsible behaviour.
Should voters take his words at face value and vote NO to the agreement, they would inflict serious damage to themselves, but Tsipras could always claim that that was the “people’s decision”, and avoid the blame.