Greek parliament approves multibillion-euro austerity package

Greek parliament approves multibillion-euro austerity package

PanARMENIAN.Net - Greek lawmakers narrowly approved a multibillion-euro austerity package early Thursday, Nov 8, in an effort to win more bailout funds, but the measures also threaten to deepen the country's brutal recession and destabilize the country's fragile three-party coalition government, The Wall Street Journal reports.

With a razor-thin majority that underscored that fragility, the 300-member Parliament passed the measure with a vote of 153 in favor versus 128 against, while 18 deputies didn't cast a vote.

Immediately after the vote, the conservative New Democracy party expelled one deputy for failing to back the measures, while the Socialist Pasok party ejected six. Lawmakers from the third party in the coalition, Democratic Left, also failed to support the package.

The measures are part of a deal struck between the Greek government and a troika of international creditors, and their passage is a critical step toward unlocking a long-delayed and desperately needed cash infusion of 31.5 billion euros ($40.2 billion).

In the hours ahead of the vote, violent clashes erupted between riot police and protesters as tens of thousands gathered in the square outside Parliament to voice their opposition as politicians inside debated legislation that would impose deep cuts in pensions and public-sector wages and clear the way for laying off thousands of civil servants.

Passage of the EUR13.5 billion austerity package is a critical step, but not the only one needed to secure funding for the cash-strapped government. Greece's parliament must also approve a troika-approved 2013 national budget in a separate vote set for Sunday.

But Greece's creditors are arguing among themselves over whether more of the country's massive debt load must be written off for the rescue plan to be successful and over how to bridge a financing gap if Athens gets two extra years to meet its budget targets.

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