Greek bailout vote puts Syriza party rebellion to the test

Wed Jul 22, 2015 3:32pm EDT
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By Costas Pitas and Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought on Wednesday to contain a rebellion in his left-wing Syriza party ahead of a vote on a second package of reforms required to start talks on a rescue deal.

A first set of reforms that focused largely on tax hikes and budget discipline triggered a rebellion in Syriza last week and passed only thanks to votes from pro-EU opposition parties.

The bill lawmakers will vote on late on Wednesday covers rules for dealing with failed banks and speeding up the justice system - two more conditions set by the euro zone and IMF to open negotiations on an 86 billion euro rescue loan.

The legislation is all but certain to pass, despite planned protests, after pro-European opposition parties said they would back it.

But with divisions in Tsipras' leftist Syriza party laid bare by last week's rebellion by 39 deputies, Wednesday's vote will be closely monitored to see if he loses even more support.

"We are making an effort to have fewer dissenters," Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis told Greek TV, while Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said it was crucial that parliament backed the deal so bailout talks could start on Friday.

But hardline Left Platform lawmakers from the Syriza party, who opposed last week's bill, said they rejected this week's law as well and they complained about the length of the bill, which covered more than 900 pages.

Tsipras himself, who is associated with the moderate wing of his party, has publicly said he disagrees with measures demanded by Greece's euro zone peers and the IMF for talks to proceed on a third bailout to save the country from bankruptcy.   Continued...

Anti-austerity demonstrators hold up a giant Greek flag in front of parliament in Athens, July 22, 2015.   REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun