[QODLink]
Europe

Greece passes crucial austerity bill

Parliament approves austerity package to secure aid from lenders after violent protests erupt in the capital, Athens.
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2012 11:01
Petrol bombs exploded next to riot police during the demonstration in central Athens [Reuters]

Greek legislators have narrowly passed a crucial austerity bill, after thousands of people gathered outside parliament to protest against the cutbacks.

The bill, which will further slash pensions and salaries, passed 153-128 in the 300-member parliament early on Thursday.

It came hours after police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to push back rioters during an 80,000-strong anti-austerity demonstration. Police said at least 20 people had been detained.

Approval of the cuts and tax rises worth 13.5bn euros ($17 billion) over two years was a big step for Greek efforts to secure the next instalment of its international rescue funds, and stave off imminent bankruptcy.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said the country will run out of euros on November 16 without the funds.

"Today we took a big and decisive step towards growth," he said after the crucial vote.

The tough measures to be implemented by 2016, include raising the retirement age to 67, slashing benefits and cutting the minimum wage.

The close vote was a major political blow to the three-party coalition government, which holds a total of 176 seats in parliament. The result shows support for continued austerity three years into Greece's financial crisis is dwindling fast.

Deputies expelled

Immediately after the vote and before the tally had been officially announced, two of the three coalition parties expelled a total of seven dissenting deputies from their ranks.

Live Box 201192615204954678

Deputies from the third, the small Democratic Left, mostly abstained, in accordance with their party's line. Leader Fotis Kouvelis had said in the days leading up to the vote that he could not back labour reforms included in the bill.

During hours of acrimonious debate in parliament, Samaras acknowledged that some of the measures in the bill were unfair, but insisted they were vital to avoid bankruptcy and Greece being forced out of the euro and back to its old currency, the drachma.

"This [bill] will finally rid the country of drachmophobia," Samaras 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," he said, adding that the country was, however, obliged to take them.

389

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Referendum on Scottish independence is the first major election in the UK where 16 and 17-year olds get a vote.
Blogger critical of a lack of government transparency faces defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Farmers worry about their future as buyers shun local produce and rivers show an elevated presence of heavy metals.
War-torn neighbour is an uncertain haven for refugees fleeing Pakistan's Balochistan, where locals seek independence.
NSA whistleblower Snowden and journalist Greenwald accuse Wellington of mass spying on New Zealanders.
join our mailing list