Greeks back austerity bill as police clash with protesters
20 Oct, 2011 07:59
The unpopular austerity bill has finally been passed following a vote in the Greek Parliament, while outside police were using tear-gas to disperse the thousands of demonstrators that had gathered around the parliamentary building in Athens.
Despite growing dissent in the ruling Socialist Party, which has a decisive majority of four seats in Parliament, the bill was passed, although party member and former labor minister Louka Katseli voted against Article 37, which had been framed to minimize collective bargaining rights.In the meantime, one person was killed and dozens injured in Greece during the second day of violent protests aimed against the government's new austerity measures. More than 50 thousands demonstrators gathered in the city's main square outside parliament while the authorities are preparing for a final vote on the austerity bill. Thus far, the Greek Parliament gave the bill initial approval which triggered Greece's most chaotic and violent protest so far. After a majority vote the lawmakers will discuss the details of the new tax hikes and cutbacks on salaries and pensions.The situation on the square is very tense, RT's Sara Firth reports from the scene. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades. This comes after the communist party-backed PAME union vowed to encircle parliament in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from accessing the building for the vote, Itar-Tass reported. One group of protesters has gathered in front of the building, while three other groups are lining up along the three other sides.In response, several hundred black block protesters, an umbrella group including anti-parliamentary activists and anarchists, attacked PAME demonstrators.They hurled rocks and petrol bombs at the PAME protesters, when they could not reach the parliament. Ambulances that arrived at the scene to take care of the injured could barely shield themselves from the rocks thrown by protesters. As the clashes between protesters are ongoing, even deputies from the governing Socialist party expressed outrage with some of the articles in the bill. Former Labor Minister Louka Katseli said she would not back a provision to scale-back labor bargaining rights, AP reports.‘Greece has become deathbed of democracy’“Greek society is facing a social disaster,” stresses Panagiotis Sotiris, a sociologist from the University of the Aegean, saying that over the last two years Greeks have only been receiving austerity packages in the name of the debt crisis so “people are beyond breaking point – they simply cannot stand it anymore.”“The [Greek] government, the EU and IMF – they are just piling up explosive material – that is why yesterday we have had the biggest strike and demonstration in the modern Greek history,” he acknowledged.The situation in the downtown Athens is growing extremely chaotic as public anger is boiling over. This is a protest of absolutely all ages and social groups because austerity has affected every single person in the country.
On Wednesday, over 200,000 people gathered for rallies across the country, according to authorities’ estimates. At least 50 police officers and three protesters were injured in the unrest in Athens, while some 10 people ended up being detained. At least seven people were taken to hospital.The lingering traces of teargas still can be detected in the air after yesterday’s clashes between police and protesters, Sara Firth says.People on the streets have lost faith in their government. They are asking why they even had to vote if their government ignores them. And while the country is seeing a critical financial deficit, protesters say that they are experiencing a “democratic deficit” as well.The situation is also heating up ahead of the EU summit on Sunday, set to work out a solution for the region's sovereign debt crisis. The summit is expected to be very crucial, because some consensus should be announced to give the investors at least a small confidence boost.Auditors appreciate Greek austerity effortsMeanwhile, Greece is most likely to receive the next tranche just in time to avoid bankruptcy. That is despite the debt inspectors’ draft report, which says that Greece has missed its fiscal targets and the pace of reforms in the country were insufficient, as cited by the Associated Press."The compliance report including a joint debt sustainability analysis is being finalized and will be submitted to the Eurogroup,” EU Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said, as cited by Reuters. “The Eurogroup [meeting] is taking place tomorrow. Its assessment and conclusions reflect the common view of the troika – the ECB, the European Commission and the IMF."If the tranche is approved on Friday, Athens will receive 8 billion euros of bailout funds by the middle of November.