Greek Parl clears bailout package amid protests

RSTV Bureau

Greece---TsiprasThe Greek Parliament on Thursday passed the terms for the third bailout as demanded by the European partners. This has paved the way to initiate talks with Europe for the 86 billion euro bailout.

There was high drama in the Parliament and it wasn’t easy for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to pass those reform measures. Tsipras had to fight factions in his own party Syriza and was left with no option but to appeal to the opposition for support.

In his speech ahead of the vote, Tsipras said there was no alternative, and even he disagreed with the measures but defended his decision as the need of the hour was to prevent the collapse of the banks and a bigger disaster for Greece.

“I will admit that the measures we are tabling are harsh, and I don’t agree with them, I don’t believe they will help the Greek economy, and I say so openly, but I also say that I must implement them, that is our difference,” Tsipras told deputies before the vote.

The package was passed with 229 votes in favour in the 300-seat chamber but 38 Syriza lawmakers abstained or voted against the government, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, Deputy Labour Minister Dimitris Stratoulisand and speaker of Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou. The vote was passed with the support of opposition parties. Some party members including the deputy finance minister announced their resignation over the deal.

“I don’t know if we did the right thing. I do know we did something we felt we had no choice over,” said the current Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.

The vote followed a stormy debate in which dozens of lawmakers on the left of the ruling Syriza party rebelled against Tsipras.

Tension and drama was also seen outside the Parliament. Crowds of anti-austerity protesters rallied on the streets of Athens. They clashed with police forces throwing petrol bombs at the police. Unions and trade associations too held strikes.

Riot police resorted to tear gas to push back dozens of hooded protesters and secure the area in front of the parliament building. Demonstrators also set ablaze parts of Syntagma square in central Athens.

The street violence reflected the public anger at measures now backed by PM Tsipras despite a July 5 referendum rejecting similar terms from Greece’s creditors.

The future of Tsipras’ government remains unclear, after the split in his party ranks. There have been reports that a cabinet reshuffle could be on the cards; but if the majority fails, Tsipras could risk facing snap elections. Accused of caving in to the demands of Eurozone leaders, Tsipras is losing credibility by the day.

But despite a vote in favour of the bailout terms, an IMF report suggests that the package does not go far enough. It read that Greece would require some write-offs in the face of its highly unsustainable debts.