Tsipras critics seek to harness Greek bailout anger

Tsipras critics seek to harness Greek bailout anger

Athens (AFP) - Thousands of Greeks angry over new cuts imposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gathered in central Athens Wednesday to call on his leftist government to quit.

The protests dubbed "Resign" on central Syntagma Square attracted as many as 7,000 people, according to police and organiser estimates.

One of the organisers, Giorgos Koutsoukos, described the turnout as "satisfactory" but a little disappointing.

In Thessaloniki, Greece's second city, barely more than 100 people turned out to protest against the government, according to an AFP journalist.

Re-elected last year on a pledge to fight austerity, Tsipras instead brokered a new bailout with international creditors including fresh tax hikes and a controversial pension overhaul.

He now trails in opinion polls behind the conservative New Democracy party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

"We want a non-partisan government of technocrats, that is not led by Tsipras," Koutsoukos, 52, told AFP at the Athens protest.

Private sector employee Barbara Antypas, 43, said she was demonstrating because "what is happening in Greece is a farce. Tsipras did worse than all his predecessors".

Greece's government scorned Wednesday's gatherings, accusing organisers of seeking to cause political instability at a crucial time for the country's weak economy.

"In the current situation, (calls to resign) do not meet society's needs and are hostile to the country," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said earlier this week.

Greece in 2015 held elections twice, and Tsipras has reached a modus vivendi with international creditors after a clash that nearly saw the country bundled out of the eurozone last summer.

Athens this week expects to draw 7.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in promised bailout loans from its creditors.

While Wednesday's protest is not officially backed by any movements, many government officials have suggested that it was covertly organised by New Democracy and other political opponents.

Labour ministry general secretary Andreas Nefeloudis this week dismissed the planned protest as elitist, saying: "If one turned half of them upside down, half the country's debt would fall from their pockets."