Saturday 25 February 2017

Greek parliament approves €85bn bailout package

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A pro-Euro demonstrator is silhouetted behind a Greek flag during a rally outside the Greek Parliament in Athens, in this photo dated Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
A pro-Euro demonstrator is silhouetted behind a Greek flag during a rally outside the Greek Parliament in Athens, in this photo dated Monday, June 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

The Greek parliament has approved a draft third bailout after an all-night session thanks to opposition votes.

The vote was approved by 222 votes to 64 with 11 abstentions.

Although he faced opposition from within his own party, Syriza leader and Prime Minister was promised the backing of opposition parties, who are trying to ensure that Greece does not return to financial chaos.

Nearly a third of deputies from Tsipras's Syriza party, 43 lawmakers, voted against or abstained, well above the three dozen that defied him in a vote on reforms last month.

Tsipras will call a confidence vote in parliament after Greece makes a debt payment to the ECB on August 20, a government official said. A senior lawmaker, Makis Voridis from the opposition New Democracy party immediately said his party would not vote in favour of the government, raising the odds that the government could be toppled.

In an appeal to lawmakers before the vote, Tsipras defended the decision to accept a programme that comes at the price of tax hikes, spending cuts and economic reforms, saying it was a choice between "staying alive or suicide".

"I do not regret my decision to compromise," Tsipras told lawmakers.

 "We are not exulting but we are also not mourning over this difficult agreement. I have my conscience clear that it is the best we could achieve under the current balance of power in Europe, under conditions of economic and financial asphyxiation imposed upon us."

Parliamentary speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, one of the Syriza hardliners, snubbed a request from Tsipras to speed up handling of the bailout bill so that it can be voted on well before the finance ministers meet in Brussels later today.

Instead, she raised a long series of procedural questions and objections which held up proceedings.

Even before the vote revealed the depth of anger against the austerity measures, Syriza was edging towards a split.

The leader of a far-left rebel faction, former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, took a step toward breaking away from Syriza on Thursday by calling for a new anti-bailout movement.

"The fight against the new bailout starts today, by mobilising people in every corner of the country," said a statement signed by Lafazanis and 11 other Syriza members and posted on the far-left faction's Iskra website.

The statement called for founding a "united movement that will justify people's desire for democracy and social justice", although it did not explicitly call for a new party or a split from Syriza.

The rebels insist the government should stand by the promises on which it was elected, to reverse the waves of spending cuts and tax rises which have had a devastating effect on an already weak economy over the past few years.

The euro zone ministers still have to approve the deal for aid to be disbursed before Athens must make a €3.2bn debt payment to the European Central Bank on August 20.

If it defaults on this debt, the ECB is likely to halt emergency funding for Greece's crippled banks.

Athens was forced to close the banks for three weeks and even now capital controls severely limiting withdrawals and payments aboard remain, badly hurting the economy.

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