ATHENS – Greece’s Parliament on Wednesday narrowly approved a new austerity package demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to keep the country’s economy afloat.
Conservative and socialist lawmakers from the three-party coalition government voted to adopt the €18.5 billion ($23.6 billion) budget cuts by 2016 despite protests earlier in the day by more than 70,000 people who massed outside the legislature in Athens.
According to Athanassios Nakos, second deputy speaker of Parliament, 153 out of the 299 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, which includes spending cuts and reforms to be implemented by 2016, while 128 voted against.
There were significant leaks from the socialist party PASOK, the junior partner in the ruling coalition. The Socialists’ leader, Evangelos Venizelos, announced that five of the party’s deputies who voted against the measures and a sixth member who failed to show up had been expelled. The third junior partner, the Democratic Left, also maintained its opposition to the measures, as it had announced before the vote.
“These are unfair measures, and there is no reason to beautify them,” conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said while addressing Parliament, referring to cuts in salaries and pensions. But “nobody can be exempted. We have fought our battle for credibility and we have won it to a great extent. . . . Today, we are called to seal the country’s new credibility.”
A huge protest outside Parliament earlier in the day ran peacefully for nearly two hours before turning violent. Police used tear gas to repel a group of nearly 300 people, who responded by throwing gasoline bombs, according to a police source who claimed 20 people were detained.