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Greek lawmakers approve third bailout deal, Tsipras faces confidence vote

Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP file picture | Greek lawmakers passed the vote after an all-night debate, on July 23, 2015

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras confronted a widening rebellion within his leftist Syriza party as parliament on Friday voted to approve the country’s third financial rescue by foreign creditors in five years.


The vote was held early Friday morning after lawmakers argued and debated through the night.

Eurozone finance ministers are expected to approve the vital aid for Athens later on Friday.

Unable to borrow on the international markets, another bailout is necessary to stop Greece enduring a disorderly default on its debts that could see it forced out of Europe's joint currency.

In an appeal to lawmakers before the vote, Tsipras defended the decision to accept the reforms, which includes tax hikes, spending cuts and economic reforms, saying it was a choice between “staying alive or suicide”.

Thanks to support from pro-euro opposition parties, the 85 billion euro bailout programme easily passed with 222 votes in the 300-seat chamber.

But 43 lawmakers - or nearly a third of deputies from Tsipras’s Syriza party - voted against or abstained, well above the three dozen that defied him in a vote on reforms last month.

Tsipras has come under intense criticism from hardliners within his own radical left Syriza party for capitulating to creditor demands to introduce strict austerity measures. The mounting discord is threatening to split his party, and could lead to early elections.

Shortly after it won approval, a government official cited by Reuters said the prime minister would seek a confidence vote after August 20 when a debt repayment to the European Central Bank is due.

Greece needed to pass the bill ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels Friday afternoon, where the ministers will decide whether to approve the draft agreement.

The deal will also need approval from the parliaments of several other countries, including that of Greece's harshest critic, Germany, before any funds can be disbursed. Some nations, such as Finland, have already given their approval.

‘We no longer have a democracy’

Dissenters in Tsipras' own party angrily challenged the government, accusing it of reneging on anti-austerity promises it made before winning elections last January.

"I feel ashamed for you. We no longer have a democracy ... but a eurozone dictatorship," prominent party member and former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said ahead of the vote. Lafazanis on Thursday co-signed a declaration along with another 12 left-wing politicians declaring they would start a new anti-austerity movement. He stopped short of quitting Syriza outright, however.

Tsipras' radical left party won elections in January on promises to repeal similar budget austerity imposed in return for Greece's two previous bailouts. His about-face, agreeing this week to tough terms with creditor negotiators from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund, has led to outrage among hardliners that now threatens to split the party.

Tsipras said Germany, and in particular its finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, was attempting to undermine Greece and its position in Europe's joint currency, and would rather see Greece kicked out of the euro.

"In a few hours ... using unfair arguments and unfair demands, there will be an effort from the side of Mr. Schaeuble to take back what has been agreed," he said, referring to the finance ministers' meeting scheduled for later in the day. "That would not be a defeat for (Greek Finance Minister Euclid) Tsakalotos, or for Greece, but for Europe."

Germany vs Greece?

German deputy finance minister Jens Spahn on Thursday stressed the importance to Germany of getting a clear signal from the International Monetary Fund, which participated in Greece's two previous bailouts, that it will remain a part of the rescue programme.

The IMF, however, insists Greece needs debt relief of some sort as it calculates the country's debt, currently at 180 percent of GDP, is unsustainable.

"We look forward to working with the authorities to develop their program in more detail and for Greece's European partners to make decisions on debt relief that will allow Greece's debt to become sustainable," said Delia Velculescu, the IMF's negotiator on Greece in this round of bailout talks.

The IMF "will make an assessment of its participation in providing any additional financing to Greece once the steps on the authorities' program and debt relief have been taken, expected at the time of the first review" of the third bailout, which would occur three months after it begins.


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