Greek Parliament to Vote on Austerity Measures

Posted February 12th, 2012 at 11:50 am (UTC-5)
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Greece's parliament on Sunday began debating draft austerity measures demanded by the European Union in exchange for a new bailout loan.

The lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure later Sunday or early Monday.

The Greek Cabinet approved a draft of the austerity bill late Friday. If passed, it will authorize Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to agree to additional cuts required to secure a $172-billion bailout loan and head off bankruptcy.

In the streets outside the parliament, tens of thousands of demonstrators opposed to the measures clashed with police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

In a televised address on Saturday, Prime Minister Papademos defended the thousands of job cuts, a drop in the minimum wage and other austerity measures that would earn the country the second bailout loan.

Socialist party leader George Papandreou and New Democracy Party leader Antonis Samaras echoed the prime minister's remarks and urged lawmakers to back the latest round of budget cuts, saying there is no other viable choice.

Papandreou warned any failure to pass the austerity measures would lead to the country's doom.

“We are talking about chaos, my dear colleagues. We are talking about the most dangerous and most painful consequences for the country and specifically for those that don't have any money. For the unemployed. For the middle and lower income classes.''

Samaras warned his party's members campaign-style politicking will not be tolerated.

“I know that very well around you there are some ambitious politicians who are trying to impress with anti-bailout agreement — rhetoric. Whoever does this should know that with this irresponsible attempt to act like they are more Catholic than the pope, they won't succeed in even being candidates (in the next election).''

Greece must pay back $19 billion in debts next month. Mr. Papademos told his Cabinet Friday that Greece will descend into “a disastrous adventure” if it is not able to repay its creditors.

Despite the dire warnings, thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets, at times clashing with police, to protest the budget cuts.

One of them gave her name only as Maria.

“We have come here because all this must stop. I think we can stop them (the politicians), we can overthrow them, so the bill won't pass. We don't want their loans or their money or their debt. We can't afford it. The people understand this. They're angry, so the politicians should be afraid.”

Another demonstrator accused the EU and the International Monetary Fund of trying to impoverish Greece on purpose.

“They (the European Union and the International Monetary Fund) want to reduce our labor costs to the level of a third-world country, so they can buy everything cheaply.”

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“Greece wants to surpass the crisis but we ask for some understanding from Europe as Greece was very badly hit by this, but it is not the only sick patient.''