Saturday 24 August 2019

Greece coalition's majority cut as MPs rebel on austerity

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Derek Gatapoulus in Athens

Greece's left-wing government had its majority cut to just six seats in parliament yesterday following dissent over an austerity vote.

Politicians voted 153-137 to loosen rules in a mortgage protection scheme and impose new fees and taxes, including higher duties on wine.

But one deputy was expelled from the ruling left-wing Syriza party's parliamentary group and another from its rightist coalition partner after both defied their parties.

The result leaves prime minister Alexis Tsipras with just 153 seats in the 300-member parliament, two months after his victory in a general election.

Eurozone bailout lenders had demanded the new measures in exchange for the next loan payout to Greece as well as a planned bank rescue - totalling €12bn.

New mortgage rules were needed to return Greek banks to health, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis argued. "We have a record amount for non-performing loans, around 40pc, while in the rest of Europe the average is about 5-7pc. We have to reduce that number," he said.

Mr Tsipras (41) and his Syriza party were first elected in January pledging to scrap austerity measures implemented since Greece's its first bailout in 2010. He was re-elected in September, despite a split in his party after he broke key pledges to keep Greece in the eurozone and avoid bankruptcy.

Before the vote, former government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis gave up his seat in parliament to protest against the austerity measures.

Mr Tsipras now faces more major hurdles in coming weeks, with a drastic overhaul planned for the country's troubled pension system. And he can no longer count on support from pro-European opposition parties, which had insisted he avoid calling the early election in September.

"I'd like to see how you'll sleep at night when the first home owner loses his house," conservative opposition leader Evangelos Meimarakis told government politicians.

Irish Independent

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