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Greece approves fresh austerity measures

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (L) applauds Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after his speech at the Greek parliament in Athens on October 16, 2015. (AFP)

The Greek parliament has narrowly approved a new bill containing fresh austerity measures and economic overhauls required by the country’s international creditors in return for bailout funds.

In the early hours of Saturday, a majority of 154 lawmakers, out of a total of 300, supported the bill that entails further tax increases, pension cuts, and tougher fines for tax evasion.

After a stormy debate between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist Syriza party -- backed by its coalition partner, the nationalist Independent Greeks (Anel) -- and the entire opposition, 140 votes were counted against the bill in the single-chamber parliament.

Tsipras says the reforms are “not new.” "You already knew them when you voted in favor of the July 13 (debt) accord” with the European Union, he replied to lawmakers from all six opposition parties who had fiercely criticized the toughness of the reforms.

Greece has agreed to a bailout program of up to €86 billion ($96 billion) in loans, offered by the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders in return for implementing harsh austerity measures. The bailout will save the debt-ridden country from being crashed out of the eurozone.

The newly adopted bill, the first since September snap elections, will pave the way for receiving the next quota of €2 billion in bailout funds.

Tsipras resigned as prime minister in August in a bid to face down an internal Syriza uprising regarding his policy change to accept austerity measures in return for Greece's third international bailout. He then was reelected as the premier on September 20 elections.

Anti-austerity protesters attend a rally in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on October 16, 2015. (AFP) 

Earlier on Friday before the parliament voting session, several thousands of anti-austerity Greeks took to the streets in two separate demonstrations in Athens. Peaceful protesters marched towards the Parliament building, chanted slogans against austerity measures, and branded Tsipras as traitor.

The rally, however, descended into violence in some parts when hundreds of young Greeks pelted riot police with petrol bombs, bottles, chunks of marble and flares. The police responded with teargas and stun grenades.

Back in July, Greece was forced to ink the third loans-for-reforms agreement with international creditors in order to be able to stay in the eurozone.

Since 2010, Athens has received two bailout packages worth a total of €240 billion ($272 billion), from its troika of international lenders – the European Commission, IMF, and the European Central Bank – following its 2009 economic crisis. In exchange for the loans, Greece agreed to implement eye-watering austerity measures.


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