Greek parliament approves tough bailout bill as protests on the streets turn violent

Riot policemen trying to avoid an exploding petrol bomb during clashes in Athens.
Riot policemen trying to avoid an exploding petrol bomb during clashes in Athens. PHOTO: REUTERS
Food vendors rushing to clear the area in Syntagma Square during police clashes with protesters.
Food vendors rushing to clear the area in Syntagma Square during police clashes with protesters. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Masked anti-establishment youths and anti-austerity protesters are seen through a cloud of tear gas during clashes in Athens.
Masked anti-establishment youths and anti-austerity protesters are seen through a cloud of tear gas during clashes in Athens. PHOTO: REUTERS
A police officer adjusting his gear during clashes with protesters on Syntagma Square in central Athens.
A police officer adjusting his gear during clashes with protesters on Syntagma Square in central Athens. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Anti-austerity protesters lifting a Greek flag in front of the parliament in Athens.
Anti-austerity protesters lifting a Greek flag in front of the parliament in Athens. PHOTO: REUTERS
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (centre) addresses the members of the parliament during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece, on July 15, 2015.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (centre) addresses the members of the parliament during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece, on July 15, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

ATHENS (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 86-billion-euro (S$129 billion) bailout, according to official results.

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.

Earlier on Wednesday, firebombs thrown by furious anti-austerity protesters exploded in front of Greece's parliament as anger over a new bailout deal spilled onto the streets of the capital.

As lawmakers prepared to vote on the unpopular deal, police fired tear gas to push back dozens of hooded and masked protesters, who threw rocks and stones as they chanted angrily in Syntagma square.

"We have been betrayed!" shouted a man in a balaclava, as police used pepper spray and gas to stop a crowd breaching a security line blocking off the road to the prime minister's office.

The violence erupted on the sidelines of a rally of 12,500 people opposed to the passage of the reforms which many fear will increase suffering in the already debt-laden country.

Officers could be seen dragging protesters away in handcuffs and police sources said some 40 people had been detained.

Close to 20 police riot vans lined the streets around Syntagma, where ambulance workers and firemen handed out water to protesters caught in clouds of stinging tear gas.

Four policemen and two AFP photographers were injured by flying debris and a television van parked nearby was set on fire, along with dumpsters and a Greek flag.

While police pushed rioters away from parliament, those retreating vandalised ATMs and a few shop windows as they went.

The majority of Greeks voted against similar austerity terms in a referendum on July 5.

"Our government is a government of traitors. We voted 'No' then Tsipras signs up to even worse conditions. It's madness," raged unemployed demonstrator Arsenios Pappas, 35, before the violence broke out.

Next to a banner showing a 'No' wrecking ball knocking down a wall of austerity measures, primary school teacher Natasia Kokkoli, 53, said the bailout deal "is simply not fair" and perhaps leaving the eurozone would be better.

"I think Greece is being used as an experiment by Europe. With the banks empty of course it's hard, but without the euro maybe Greece could find its way again," she said.

Vendors selling beer, roasted sweetcorn and nuts had been doing a brisk trade before gangs of mainly male protesters in black t-shirts, many sporting big bushy beards or sunglasses over their balaclavas, began taunting police.

"People are angry. Yes Tsipras had a choice, he chose to lie to us. This is the result," said Maximos, 37, as protesters near him waved a sign reading "We said 'No', we meant 'No'".