Greek parliament approves bailout measures as Syriza fragments
By Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek parliament passed sweeping austerity measures demanded by lenders to open talks on a new multibillion-euro bailout package to keep Greece in the euro, but dozens of hardliners in the ruling Syriza party deserted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The package was approved with 229 votes in the 300-seat chamber. There were 64 votes against it and six abstentions. But Tsipras required the support of pro-European opposition parties to push the measure through, leaving a question over the future of his government.
Tsipras said there was no alternative to the package, which he acknowledged would cause hardship, but he stood by the decision. "I am the last person to shirk this responsibility," he told parliament.
Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis acknowledged the vote laid bare a split in Syriza, but he said the government's priority was to secure the bailout, suggesting that there would be no immediate move towards new elections.
In exchange for funding worth up to 86 billion euros ($94 billion), Greece has accepted reforms including significant pension adjustments, increases to value added taxes, an overhaul of its collective bargaining system, measures to liberalize its economy and tight limits on public spending.
It has also agreed to sequester 50 billion euros of public assets in a special privatization fund to act as collateral on the deal.
The measures were branded "social genocide" by the firebrand speaker of parliament Zoe Constantopoulou and there were violent clashes between protestors and police outside parliament as the debate went on before the vote.
Among the 38 Syriza rebels was former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was sacked by Tsipras last week and who denounced the bailout deal as "a new Versailles Treaty" - the agreement that demanded unaffordable reparations from Germany after its defeat in World War One. Continued...