Greek law­mak­ers back 3rd bailout af­ter all-night de­bate

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY DEREK GATOPOULOS AND ELENA BE­CA­TOROS

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.

“We welcome

the

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.

AP

Greek Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos ges­tures dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary ses­sion in Athens, early Fri­day, Aug. 14.

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