Greek lawmakers approved drastic new austerity measures in order to keep in line with the demands of bailout creditors. Despite anger and disagreement between the two main coalition members, Lawmakers voted 199-74 in favor of the cutbacks.
This vote will allow Greece to receive $170 billion ($130 billion euro) in new rescue loans. Without the bailout, Greece would default next month and perhaps leave the eurozone which can add more fuel to the already unstable global market.
Violence erupted in six other cities. The worst is in central Volos where the town hall and tax office were damaged by fire.
Sunday’s riots emerged after 100,000 protestors that marched to the parliament to rally against the exorbitant cuts. The cuts will include axing one in five civil service jobs and slasht he minimum wage by more than a fifth.
At least 50 police officers had been injured and at least 70 protestors were hospitalized. About 67 suspected rioters were arrested and another 70 detained. Several businesses had been damaged by fire including historic buildings, movie theaters, banks and a cafeteria. This is the worst damage in Athens in years.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos calls for calmness.
“Vandalism and destruction have no place in a democracy and will not be tolerated,” Papademos told Parliament just before the vote. “I call on the public to show calm. At these crucial times, we do not have the luxury of this type of protest. I think everyone is aware of how serious the situation is.”
Greece had been surviving on a $145 billiong (euro 110 billion) bailout from European partners and the International Monetary fund since May 2010. Now they are back asking for another bailout. Greece needs to persuade skeptical creditors that it can successfully implement spending cuts that will end years of wasteful spending.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the new austerity measures were important for the country’s economic survival.
“The question is not whether some salaries and pensions will be curtailed, but whether we will be able to pay even these reduced wages and pensions,” he told lawmakers before the vote. “When you have to choose between bad and worse, you will pick what is bad to avoid what is worse.”
Germany’s Vice Chancellor Philip Roesler stated “Greece’s promises aren’t enough for us anymore.” referring to the promises Greece pledged and did not keep.
“It is not enough just to give financial aid – they must tackle the second cause of the crisis, the lack of economic competitiveness,” he told said ARD television. “For that, they need … massive structural reforms. Otherwise Greece will not get out of the crisis.”
Socialist lawmaker Sofia Yiannakka said that this push from Greece’s EU partners was the consequence of delays in implementing reforms that were already agreed upon.
“The delays have our imprint [Greece]. We should not blame foreigners for them,” she said. “We have finally found out that you have to pay back what you have borrowed.”