Greek Lawmakers Approve 3rd Bailout After All-Night Debate

Greece needed to pass the bill ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels Friday.

Greek lawmakers approved their country's draft third bailout in a parliamentary vote Friday that relied on opposition party support and saw the government coalition suffer significant dissent.

The vote came after a marathon all-night session marked by procedural delays and acrimonious debate over the three-year, about 85 billion-euro ($93 billion) rescue package that includes harsh spending cuts and tax hikes. Greece needs the money to avoid defaulting on its debts and securing its future in the euro currency.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has come under intense criticism from hardliners within his own radical left Syriza party for capitulating to creditor demands to introduce the austerity measures, many of whom voted against the bill. The discord is threatening to split his party and could lead to early elections.

Greece needed to pass the bill ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels Friday afternoon, where the ministers will decide whether to approve the draft agreement.

The deal will also need approval from the parliaments of several other countries, including that of Greece's harshest critic, Germany, before any funds can be disbursed. Some nations, such as Finland, have already given their approval.

Dissenters in Tsipras' own party angrily challenged the government, accusing it of reneging on anti-austerity promises it made before winning elections last January.

"I feel ashamed for you. We no longer have a democracy ... but a eurozone dictatorship," prominent party member and former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said ahead of the vote. Lafazanis on Thursday co-signed a declaration along with another 12 left-wing politicians declaring they would start a new anti-austerity movement. He stopped short of quitting Syriza outright, however.

Tsipras' radical left party won elections in January on promises to repeal similar budget austerity imposed in return for Greece's two previous bailouts. His about-face, agreeing this week to tough terms with creditor negotiators from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund, has led to outrage among hardliners that now threatens to split the party.

"We took a painful decision of responsibility, and took a step back," Tsipras said in his defense of the bailout. "Our position cannot be served by escape or by fantasy. We took the decision to remain alive instead of committing suicide and complaining how unfair it was."

Tsipras said Germany, and in particular its finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, was attempting to undermine Greece and its position in Europe's joint currency, and would rather see Greece kicked out of the euro.

"In a few hours ... using unfair arguments and unfair demands, there will be an effort from the side of Mr. Schaeuble to take back what has been agreed," he said, referring to the finance ministers' meeting scheduled for later in the day. "That would not be a defeat for (Greek Finance Minister Euclid) Tsakalotos, or for Greece, but for Europe."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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