Greek lawmakers back 3rd bailout after all-night debate
Greek lawmakers approved a draft bailout deal Friday in the hope of ensuring the country’s place in the euro, but the government suffered significant dissent from left-wing hardliners within its ranks, raising the likelihood of early elections.
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 whether to approve the draft agreement.
The rescue package would give Greece about 85 billion euros (US$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 — as soon as next week — that would force it 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.
successful vote in the Greek Parliament this morning,” said German Foreign Ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer, whose country has been the single largest contributor to Greece’s previous two bailouts and is the country’s harshest critic.
“Now an important precondition has been met for the process to continue,” he said.
The EU Commission, meanwhile, is confident that “a positive outcome is entirely feasible today” at the eurozone meeting in Brussels, spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said.
The mounting discord within Syriza, however, is threatening to split the party and could lead to early elections. The stock market in Athens slid on the news and was down 2.4 percent in afternoon trading.
State television said Tsipras was expected to call a vote of confidence in his government, but that was not confirmed.
Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said any action would come after Aug. 20, when Greece has to make a large debt repayment to the European Central Bank.
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos gestures during a parliamentary session in Athens, early Friday, Aug. 14.