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Parliament approves Greek austerity plan

Date: November 08 2012


Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has mustered enough support to secure approval of austerity measures that will unlock bailout funds, after more than 50,000 protesters ringed Parliament.

The bill on pension, wage and benefit cuts had at least 151 votes in favour in the 300-seat Parliament. The voting was televised on state-run Vouli TV.

‘‘Today, here, we have to put a stamp on Greek credibility,’’ Mr Samaras said before the vote. ‘‘We decide if we want to stabilise Greece or to end up outside the euro and return to the drachma. We decide whether we want to exit the crisis united.’’

Mr Samaras fought to stem defections from his three-party coalition as European Union leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel seek signs that his government is serious about staying in the euro. Backing from his New Democracy party and the socialist Pasok party gave Mr Samaras the support of 175 parliamentarians before the vote.

Democratic Left, a coalition partner with 16 seats, had said it won’t vote for changes to labour laws it says have no fiscal benefit.

The vote occurred on the second day of a 48-hour general strike which has shut down hospitals, schools and government services and brought public transport to a standstill. Police estimated there were at least 50,000 people at a rally called against the measures, making it one of the biggest anti-austerity protests in the country since Greece sparked the European debt crisis in 2009.

Approval of the legislation, which raises the retirement age by two years to 67 and cuts wages and pensions a second time this year, is the first of the votes required by November 12 to get a €31 billion ($A38 billion) aid tranche and avert a financial collapse that may drive the country from the euro.

Parliament will convene again on November 11 to vote on the 2013 budget, a day before euro area finance ministers meet to discuss whether to unlock the funds.

Bloomberg

Reuters

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