Greek Parliament Barely Passes New Austerity Package

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Amid more violent demonstrations in Athens, the Greek Parliament approved drastic austerity measures early Thursday to keep the country in the euro zone, but the margin was so slim as to threaten the governing coalition.

After 14 hours of debate, the three-party coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras passed the package by 153 to 128, after several lawmakers broke ranks, The New York Times reported. Eighteen members voted present, the equivalent of a blank vote, including 15 from the smallest coalition party, Democratic Left, which opposes the measures. There was one abstention. After the vote, six lawmakers were expelled from the coalition’s Socialist Pasok party and one from Samaras’ conservative New Democracy.

The measures impose sharp cuts on pensions, salaries and social services, plus tax increases, and raise the retirement age to 67 from 65. Greece’s foreign creditors have demanded that the bill and the 2013 budget, due to be voted on Sunday, pass before they consider releasing an already delayed €31.5 billion installment from Greece’s €240 billion bailout. Without it,  Samaras says Greece will run out of money on Nov. 16, the Washington Post reports.

Samaras acknowledged that some of the measures were unfair, but insisted they were vital to avoid bankruptcy and Greece’s forced exit from the euro and reversion to its old currency, the drachma.

“This (bill) will finally rid the country of drachmophobia,” the premier said.

“Many of these measures are fair and should have been taken years ago, without anyone asking us to,” Samaras said. “Others are unfair — cutting wages and salaries — and there is no point in dressing this up as something else.” But, he said, the alternative was bankruptcy that would trigger financial chaos as the country would likely have to leave the 17-country euro bloc.

 

 

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