Greek lawmakers back 3rd bailout after all-night debate
Greek lawmakers approved their country's draft third bailout on Friday after a nearly 24-hour marathon parliamentary procedure culminated in a vote that saw the government coalition suffer significant dissent.
The government needed the bill to pass in time for Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos to head to Brussels to meet his eurozone counterparts, who will decide Friday afternoon whether to approve the draft agreement.
The rescue package would give Greece about 85 billion euros ($93 billion) in loans over three years in exchange for harsh spending cuts and tax hikes. Unable to borrow on the international markets, another bailout is all that stands between Greece and a disorderly default on its debts that could see it forced out of Europe's joint currency. The bill passed thanks to support from opposition parties, with 222 votes in favor, 64 against, 11 abstentions and three absent in the 300-member parliament.
Although approved by a comfortable majority, the result was a blow to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who saw more than 40 of his 149 radical left Syriza party lawmakers vote against him. He has come under intense criticism from party hardliners for capitulating to the creditors' demands for budget cuts - austerity measures he had promised to oppose when he won elections in January.
The bill includes reforms increasing personal, company and shipping taxes, reducing some pensions, abolishing tax breaks for some groups considered vulnerable and implementing deep spending cuts, including to the armed forces. The mounting discord within Syriza is threatening to split the party and could lead to early elections. That stock market in Athens slid on the news and was down 2.3 percent in midday trading.
State television said Tsipras was expected to call a vote of confidence in his government, but that was not confirmed.
"Truly today we had a large majority that voted for the agreement, but we also had a number of lawmakers who chose a different course," said government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili. "Therefore, as the prime minister said during his speech, everything that is necessary will be done, adhering always to the regulations (of parliament) and the constitution."
Gerovasili refused to give details on a potential early election, but said any action would come after Aug. 20, when Greece has to make a large debt repayment to the European Central Bank. Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis, speaking on state television, said early elections were now likely.
"The agreement has cost the government its majority ... As things have turned out, the clearest solution would be elections," he said. The deal will also need approval from the parliaments of several other countries, including that of Greece's harshest critic, Germany, before any funds can be disbursed. Some nations, such as Finland, have already given their approval.
Syriza dissenters angrily challenged the government during the allnight parliamentary session. "I feel ashamed for you. We no longer have a democracy ... but a eurozone dictatorship," prominent party member and former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said before the vote. Lafazanis co-signed a declaration along with another 12 left-wing politicians Thursday declaring they would start a new anti- austerity movement. He stopped short of quitting Syriza.