Tsipras resigns, paving way for snap Greek election

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Greek PM Tsipras Resigns, Calls for Early Elections

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, hoping to strengthen his hold on power in snap elections after seven months in office in which he fought Greece's creditors for a better bailout deal but had to cave in.

Tsipras submitted his resignation to President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and asked for the earliest possible election date.

Government officials said the aim was to hold the election on Sept. 20, with Tsipras seeking to crush a rebellion in his leftist Syriza party and seal public support for the bailout program, Greece's third since 2010, that he negotiated.

SEE MORE: German lawmakers back third Greek bailout

"I will go the president of the republic shortly to submit my resignation, as well as the resignation of my government," Tsipras said in a televised address before he met Pavlopoulos.

Faced with a near collapse of the Greek financial system which threatened the country's future in the euro, Tsipras was forced to accept the creditors' demands for yet more austerity and economic reform - the very policies he had promised to scrap when he was elected in January.

"I want to be honest with you. We did not achieve the agreement we expected before the January elections," he told the Greek people.

Click through for images of the violent protests in Greece post-bailout:

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Tsipras resigns, paving way for snap Greek election
Members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union hold a banner reading ''No to the giant new bailout'' during an anti-austerity rally at Omonia square in Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greece has a tentative rescue deal, but relief that it is not falling out of the euro is unlikely to last long: its economy has taken a huge hit. Months of political brinkmanship, uncertainty and bank closures have hurt companies and brought everyday business to a standstill. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union march during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greece has a tentative rescue deal, but relief that it is not falling out of the euro is unlikely to last long: its economy has taken a huge hit. Months of political brinkmanship, uncertainty and bank closures have hurt companies and brought everyday business to a standstill. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union shout slogans during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greece has a tentative rescue deal, but relief that it is not falling out of the euro is unlikely to last long: its economy has taken a huge hit. Months of political brinkmanship, uncertainty and bank closures have hurt companies and brought everyday business to a standstill. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union shout slogans during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greece has a tentative rescue deal, but relief that it is not falling out of the euro is unlikely to last long: its economy has taken a huge hit. Months of political brinkmanship, uncertainty and bank closures have hurt companies and brought everyday business to a standstill. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Riot police guard near an anti-austerity protest in Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greece has a tentative rescue deal, but relief that it is not falling out of the euro is unlikely to last long: its economy has taken a huge hit. Months of political brinkmanship, uncertainty and bank closures have hurt companies and brought everyday business to a standstill. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Demonstrators gather near the Greek Parliament during a rally against the government's agreement with its creditors in Athens, in central Athens, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The eurozone's top official says it's not easy to find a way to get Greece a short-term cash infusion that will help it meet upcoming debt repayments. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Anti-austerity placards, some reading in Greek: "neonazis out", are seen ready to be used ahead of a demonstration in central Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced a revolt in his left-wing party and workers' calls for strikes ahead of Wednesday's Parliament vote on a bailout deal meant to prevent the country's economy from collapsing. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Anti-austerity demonstrators march along a street during a protest in central Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced a revolt in his left-wing party and workers' calls for strikes ahead of Wednesday's Parliament vote on a bailout deal meant to prevent the country's economy from collapsing. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
People walk in front of the Greek Parliament in central Athens, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The eurozone's top official says it's not easy to find a way to get Greece a short-term cash infusion that will help it meet upcoming debt repayments. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Members of the Communist Party-affiliated trade union PAME demonstrate in central Athens, marking a 24-hours public sector and pharmacists strike on July 15, 2015 against the new package of austerity measures. Greece geared up for a parliamentary vote on draconian reforms demanded by eurozone creditors in exchange for a huge new bailout, just hours after a bombshell report from the International Monetary Fund criticised the deal. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-communist supporters demonstrate in front of the finance ministry in central Athens, marking a 24-hours public sector and pharmacists strike on July 15, 2015 against the new package of austerity measures. Greece geared up for a parliamentary vote on draconian reforms demanded by eurozone creditors in exchange for a huge new bailout, just hours after a bombshell report from the International Monetary Fund criticised the deal. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A security officer walks along a track at a closed central train station during a 24-hour strike of Greece's railway, in Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Lawmakers on Wednesday began debating the austerity bill Greece must pass before the country can start talks on a third international bailout, amid growing anger among governing left-wing Syriza party members. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man sits and begs for money, as pedestrians walk by outside of a National Bank, in central Athens, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The eurozone's top official says it's not easy to find a way to get Greece a short-term cash infusion that will help it meet upcoming debt repayments. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 14: A man begs on the streets of Athens on July 14, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is meeting members of his party to discuss the eurozone bailout deal before a meeting in parliament to begin implementing bailout reforms. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A man walks past "Greek Railways'' at the central train station during a 24-hour strike of Greece's railway, in Athens, on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Lawmakers on Wednesday began debating the austerity bill Greece must pass before the country can start talks on a third international bailout, amid growing anger among governing left-wing Syriza party members. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Anti-austerity demonstrators march during a protest in central Athens, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced a revolt in his left-wing party and workers' calls for strikes ahead of Wednesday's Parliament vote on a bailout deal meant to prevent the country's economy from collapsing. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A protester argues with police while holding a Greek flag on the stairs leading to the Greek Parliament in Athens on July 13, 2015, during an anti-EU demonstration calling for the dismissal of accords between Greece and its European creditors and further austerity measures. Eurozone leaders struck a deal July 13 on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 13: Protesters gather outside the Greek parliament to demonstrate against austerity after an agreement for a third bailout with eurozone leaders on July 13, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The bailout is conditional on Greece passing agreed reforms in parliament by Wednesday which includes streamlining pensions and rasing more raise tax revenue. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 13: A man sits alone with his thoughts as protesters gather outside the Greek parliament to demonstrate against austerity after an agreement for a third bailout with eurozone leaders on July 13, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The bailout is conditional on Greece passing agreed reforms in parliament by Wednesday which includes streamlining pensions and rasing more raise tax revenue. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A woman burns the flag of the ruling party Syriza, surrounded by journalists, in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, during an anti-EU demonstration in Athens calling for a no to any agreement with the creditors on July 13 , 2015. Eurozone leaders struck a deal on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Leftists demonstrated in Syntagma square against the new agreement between the Greek government and its international creditors during the Eurogroup Summit that announced new austerity measures that will be imposed. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Leftists demonstrated in Syntagma square against the new agreement between the Greek government and its international creditors during the Eurogroup Summit that announced new austerity measures that will be imposed. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Leftists demonstrated in Syntagma square against the new agreement between the Greek government and its international creditors during the Eurogroup Summit that announced new austerity measures that will be imposed. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Leftists demonstrated in Syntagma square against the new agreement between the Greek government and its international creditors during the Eurogroup Summit that announced new austerity measures that will be imposed. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Leftists demonstrated in Syntagma square against the new agreement between the Greek government and its international creditors during the Eurogroup Summit that announced new austerity measures that will be imposed. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 14: A man cleans off the latest batch of anti-austerity graffiti from the walls of the Bank of Greece on July 14, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is meeting members of his party to discuss the eurozone bailout deal before a meeting in parliament to begin implementing bailout reforms. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Leftists demonstrated in Syntagma square against the new agreement between the Greek government and its international creditors during the Eurogroup Summit that announced new austerity measures that will be imposed. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: A protester holds a Greek flag at the anti-austerity protest outside the Greek Parliament. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Protesters pose with a Greek flag next to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, making a victory sign, at the anti-austerity protest. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: A protester holds up a banner at the anti-austerity protest outside the Greek Parliament. The banner reads 'Syriza's Deputies Don't Vote For The New Memorandum, The Only Left Thing Left To Do. #ThisIsACoup #NO-OXI DEMOCRACY NOT FUND ON THIS EUROPE'. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Eleni Louka, a religious activist, rants against the EU and the government at the anti-austerity protest outside the Greek Parliament. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Protesters stand behind a banner in Athens on July 13, 2015 while participating in an anti-EU demonstration calling for the dismissal of accords between Greece and its European creditors and further austerity measures. Eurozone leaders struck a deal July 13 on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People pass by a graffiti showing a euro sign bleeding, in central Athens on July 14, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was on July 14 holding meetings with his party, faced with the tough task of selling a new bailout deal that requires Athens to push through draconian reforms within two days. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: Hundreds of Protesters have come to the anti-austerity protest outside the Greek Parliament. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: A protester poses for the press with a Greek flag at the anti-austerity protest on the steps leading up to the Greek Parliament. Riot police officers have secured the steps and watch him. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS, ATTICA, GREECE - 2015/07/13: A riot police officer returns the Greek flag to the protester. Greeks assembled outside the Greek Parliament under the banner of 'We leave this Europe'. They called for the government to not give into the demands of the Greek creditors for more austerity measures, but rather to leave the Eurozone. (Photo by Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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"I feel the deep ethical and political responsibility to put to your judgment all I have done, successes and failures."

His decision deepens political uncertainty on the day Greece began receiving funds under its 86 billion-euro ($96 billion) bailout program, five years after a previous government took the first bailout from the euro zone and IMF.

But a snap election should allow Tsipras to capitalize on his popularity with voters before the toughest parts of the latest program - including further pension cuts, more value-added tax increases and a "solidarity" tax on incomes - begin to bite. This may allow him to return to power in a stronger position without anti-bailout rebels in Syriza to slow him down.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of euro zone finance ministers, said he hoped the resignation would not delay or derail implementation of the bailout package.

"It is crucial that Greece maintains its commitments to the euro zone," he said in a statement to Reuters.

MAJORITY LOST

Tsipras had long been expected to seek early elections in the autumn. But he was forced to move quickly after nearly a third of Syriza lawmakers refused to back the program in parliament last week, robbing him of his majority.

A leading rebel, Syriza lawmaker Dimitris Stratoulis, hinted that his faction might split formally from the party, declaring a "political and social front which will be anti-austerity, democratic and patriotic".

"It will have as a goal to cancel the previous two bailout agreements and the third bailout agreement that the current government voted for, and to replace them with a policy of growth," he said.

Greece's complex constitution has special stipulations for holding elections less than 12 months after the previous vote, meaning the president should first give major opposition parties three days each to try to form a government.

Conservative leader Vangelis Meimarakis said he would have a go, although the arithmetic of the current parliament means his New Democracy party has little chance of pulling a coalition together.

Meimarakis took aim at Tsipras.

"He is a bit of a fibber. He might be likeable, but he is a bit cunning," he told a news conference. "I feel he is fooling the Greek people, his comrades, and the Europeans ... Did he get a bit too much sun in August?"

Tsipras nevertheless remains popular among his supporters for trying to stand up to the foreign creditors and with the opposition in disarray, he is widely expected to return to power.

A Metron Analysis poll on July 24 put support for Syriza at 33.6 percent, making it by far the most popular party, but not enough to govern without a coalition partner. No polls have been published since then due to the holiday season.

The prolonged standoff forced Athens to shut its banks for three weeks and impose capital controls before Tsipras accepted the bailout under threat of a financial collapse and Greek exit from the euro currency.

The first installment of aid allowed Greece to make a debt repayment to the European Central Bank that fell due on Thursday.

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