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Greek parliament approves tough bailout plan amid anti-austerity unrest

Protesters burn a Greek flag in central Athens during an anti-austerity protest on July 15, 2015.
Protesters burn a Greek flag in central Athens during an anti-austerity protest on July 15, 2015. AFP

Greece’s parliament early on Thursday strongly approved a bill of tough reforms demanded by the country’s creditors in return for a new multi-billion euro bailout package, amid political dissent and violent protests in opposition to the plan.

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A final count showed 229 lawmakers voted in favour of the measures, with 64 voting against and six abstaining.

The ruling radical Syriza party passed the bill thanks to support from pro-European opposition parties as a large group of government lawmakers – including former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the head of parliament Zoe Constantopoulou and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis – voted against the measures.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has nearly split his party in the process, insisted he did not agree with the bulk of the draconian deal, that demands tax hikes, a pensions overhaul, and privatisation pledges.

But he said the country had no other choice if it wanted to stay in the euro.

“We will not back down from our pledge to fight to the end for the right of the working people,” he told the chamber ahead of the vote.

“There is no other option but for all of us to share the weight of this responsibility,” Tsipras said.

Unrest

Greek anti-establishment protesters threw stones and dozens of petrol bombs at police in front of parliament before the vote, in some of the most serious violence in more than two years.

Police responded with tear gas, sending hundreds of people fleeing in central Syntagma Square.

Garbage cans and a vehicle belonging to a television crew were also set on fire. The clashes were brief and calm largely returned to the square, with a few hundred protesters staying on under heavy police surveillance.

Earlier, thousands took to the streets of Athens in a series of otherwise peaceful marches during the day to protest against the new deal.

Once a common sight in protest marches in Greece, clashes with police had been very rare since Syriza came to power in January. About 30 people were detained, a police source said.

Just before the clashes, protesters marched waving banners reading “Cancel the bailout!” and “No to the policies of the EU, the ECB and the IMF.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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