Fiscal fires raging
Mutiny in parliament and rioting in streets as deal agreed
GREEK MPs have voted in favour of a deeply contentious bailout package, clearing the first hurdle towards securing a eurozone rescue, but leaving the nation’s radical Left-wing Government weakened.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday pushed through the unpopular reforms demanded by the country’s international creditors.
The vote followed scenes of anger in Athens, where antiausterity protesters threw firebombs at police.
Mr Tsipras suffered a major mutiny from his MPs — 32 out of 149 voted against the measures — and had to rely on the support of pro-European opposition parties.
The final count showed 229 out of 300 MPs voted in favour of the measures, which include sweeping changes to Greece’s tax, pensions and labour rules.
Mr Tsipras said to parlia- ment before the vote: “I had specific choices put before me: one was to accept a deal I disagree with on many points; another was a disorderly default.”
“We will not back down from our pledge to fight to the end for the right of the working people,” he said, adding that “there is no other option but for all of us to share the weight of this responsibility”.
It was a bitter victory for Mr Tsipras, who has said he does not believe in the deal, but sees it as the only way of preventing his country from crashing out of the eurozone.
Greece’s weary Finance Minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, told parliament his decision to back the bailout was something that “will burden me my whole life”. “I don’t know if we did the right thing. I do know we did something we felt we had no choice over,” he said.
Mr Tsipras’s Government also suffered its first resignations, with a junior finance minister and a senior economy ministry official walking out in protest. The majority of Greeks voted against similar austerity terms in a referendum on July 5, and furious demonstrators could not contain their anger in front of parliament ahead of the vote.
“Our Government are traitors. We voted ‘No’, then Tsipras signs up to even worse conditions. Madness,” raged unemployed Arsenios Pappas.
For Greece to secure the bailout funds, the agreement must still go before the parliaments of the other 19 eurozone members. Only after that can the tough talks to finalise the long-awaited deal, expected to take much of the European summer, begin in earnest.