IN PHOTOS: Greece Tries To Recover After The Violent Clashes In Athens

by
Reuters
Greece awoke with a political hangover after parliament approved a stringent bailout proposal following a night of violent clashes in Athens.

Greece awoke with a political hangover on Thursday after parliament approved a stringent bailout program, thanks to the votes of the pro-European opposition, amid the worst protest violence this year.

The vote, vital to unlocking emergency financing from European partners as early as Thursday, left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras weakened by a revolt in his leftist Syriza party but clinging to power for now.

Tsipras won 229 out of the 300 parliamentary votes in favor of the agreement he struck on Monday with euro zone partners on austerity measures and liberal economic reforms tougher than those rejected by voters in a July 5 referendum.

Some of the key measures, including an increase in value added tax, take effect immediately, although it will only be extended to hotels in October, after the tourist season.

Tsipras told lawmakers he had accepted a package he did not believe in and which would harm Greece, but the only alternative was a disorderly bankruptcy that would be more catastrophic.

"I acknowledge the fiscal measures are harsh, that they won't benefit the Greek economy, but I'm forced to accept them," he said before the vote in the early hours of Thursday.

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In Athens, cleaners removed overnight the debris of a pitched battle on the central Syntagma Square outside the parliament.

Greek anti-establishment protesters threw dozens of petrol bombs at police in front of parliament on Wednesday ahead of a key vote on a bailout deal, in some of the most serious violence in over two years. Police responded with tear gas, sending hundreds of people fleeing in central Syntagma Square.

Tsipras won the vote thanks to the support of the centre-right New Democracy, centre-left Pasok and centrist To Potami opposition parties.

"The responsible opposition assumed the burden to rescue the country as did the prime minister, even though it was at the last minute," the conservative daily Kathimerini said in an editorial. "He deserves credit for this, but he lost the support of a large part of his party's lawmakers."

"He now has the big responsibility to ensure the country will have a government that keeps its pledges to creditors and implements them. Otherwise, his bold step will stall and with it the country's European prospects," the paper said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of the toughest critics of Greece in the euro zone, said on German radio he still believed Athens would do better to leave the currency area temporarily to receive a debt writedown.

But Schaeuble said he would vote in favor of opening talks on a third bailout loan for Greece "with full conviction" when the German Bundestag debates the plan on Friday.

"We are a step further," Schaeuble told Deutschlandfunk radio after the Greek parliament voted to approve the entire package demanded by European partners. "This is an important step."

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