Thursday 22 February 2018

More protests ahead of Greece austerity vote

Greek pensioners take part in an anti-austerity rally in Athens (AP)
Greek pensioners take part in an anti-austerity rally in Athens (AP)

Protests have continued in Athens for a second day, hours before a major austerity vote in parliament which would impose additional income losses for many Greeks for another three years.

Hundreds of pensioners marched to parliament on Thursday amid heavy rain, chanting: "No more tax theft."

Their protest comes a day after a general strike disrupted services across the country.

Ongoing stoppages have kept ferries tied up at port and played havoc with public transport.

Left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras is seeking parliamentary approval for pension cuts and tax hikes through 2020, as part of an agreement with international bailout creditors to continue vital loan payouts.

With all opposition parties opposed to the measures, Mr Tsipras is relying on his three-seat majority in the 300-member parliament. So far, there are no declared dissenters.

Mr Tsipras initially came to power in 2015, promising to bring an end to the austerity measures which had been imposed during Greece's first two international bailouts.

However, his coalition government soon found itself facing a disastrous Greek default, as the country was unable to service its debt without external help.

Mr Tsipras signed up to a third bailout later that year, but not before calling a referendum that led to a run on the banks, forcing the government to impose capital controls.

The banking restrictions and limits on cash withdrawals remain.

The new belt-tightening measures, expected to be voted at around midnight on Thursday, will be imposed after Greece's current third bailout ends next year.

Unions and the opposition have compared the new reforms to those of a fourth bailout, but without the corresponding funding from international creditors.

The government rejects the accusation, emphasising that it will also take what it has dubbed "counter-measures" to relieve poverty.

Press Association

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