Greece passes second crucial bailout bill
Athens – Greece’s parliament thursday passed legislation on a second batch of reforms needed to help unlock a huge international bailout for the country’s stricken economy.
The bill passed by a resounding 230 votes out of the 298 members of parliament present, after a marathon debate stretching into the early hours that nonetheless exposed deep divisions in the governing Syriza party.
The legislation covers changes to the civil justice system, a bank deposit protection scheme and measures to shore up the liquidity of Greece’s banks — reforms that had to pass if Athens was to move forward in bailout negotiations with its creditors.
While the new law will come as a relief to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras — who is negotiating a new bailout worth up to 86 billion euros (USD 93 billion) over three years — it saw him suffer a major rebellion amongst MPs in his leftist Syriza party for the second time in a week.
Today’s vote was seen as a key test of Tsipras’ authority after he was forced to reshuffle his cabinet following a mutiny by nearly a fifth of his MPs in a separate vote on the first tranche of tough economic reforms demanded by Athens’ creditors.
While the prime minister trimmed the rebellion from 39 ‘no’ votes and abstentions last week to 36 on today, in both cases he was forced to rely on opposition parties to get the legislation passed.
Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili admitted the government was facing a “political problem” and said “planned procedures” would be implemented to address it.
“The divide in the parliamentary majority is clear,” she told reporters after the vote. While Tsipras is riding high in the opinion polls personally, analysts believe the deep divisions within Syriza are likely to force the government to call early elections after being voted into power at the beginning of the year.
The tough reform package sparked five hours of fiery debate last night, with weary lawmakers clashing on everything from Marxism to submarines as dawn neared, and the speaker of parliament comparing the bailout deal to “a coup”.
In a passionate speech to the chamber, Tsipras insisted the deal was the result of a “difficult compromise” with Greece’s paymasters — the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — necessary to prevent Greece from tumbling out of the eurozone.
The youthful premier, who blazed to power in January promising to end austerity, warned that Greece had to adapt to “the new realities” of the bailout agreement.