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Samaras Wins Greek Austerity Bill in Race to Secure Aid

Published: November 8, 2012 | 8:12 am
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Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras mustered the support of enough lawmakers to secure approval of austerity measures needed to unlock bailout funds, after more than 50,000 protesters ringed Parliament.
The bill on pension, wage and benefit cuts was approved with 153 votes in favor in the 300-seat Parliament early today, according to acting Parliament speaker Athanasios Nakos. A total of 128 voted against the bill, with 18 voting “present.” One lawmaker was absent. The voting was televised on state-run Vouli TV.

The vote took its toll on Samaras’s government, with Samaras expelling one lawmaker from his New Democracy party for failing to support the bill. Samaras’s main coalition partner, Pasok, which provides Samaras with the majority he needs to rule, expelled six lawmakers after the vote for their failure to support the legislation.
“Greece today took a great, decisive and positive step,” Samaras said in a statement after the tally. “This vote was a condition that will create jobs for our children, for all of Greece to see better days. The next step is the budget, which will also go well.”

Fighting Defections
Samaras fought to stem defections from his three-party coalition as European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel look for signs that Greece is justifying their efforts to keep the country in the euro. With backing from his New Democracy party, the socialist Pasok party and Democratic Left, Samaras had the support of 175 lawmakers before the vote; after the vote and the expulsions, he can count on 169.
Greek bonds have gained since May. The spread between yields on 10-year Greek bonds and their German counterparts yesterday was 1,559 basis points, or 15.59 percentage points, down from as much as 2,873 basis points earlier this year.
The Athens Stock Exchange’s benchmark index has risen 21 percent this year, after tumbling 69 percent in the previous 24 months.
Democratic Left, a coalition partner with 16 seats, had said it won’t vote for changes to labor laws it says have no fiscal benefit. The party’s leader, Fotis Kouvelis, has pledged to support the government in a vote on Nov. 11 on the budget.

General Strike
The vote occurred on the second day of a 48-hour general strike which shut down hospitals, schools and government services and brought public transport to a standstill. Police estimated there were at least 50,000 people at a rally called against the measures, making it one of the biggest anti- austerity protests in the country since Greece sparked the European debt crisis in 2009.
Police clashed with protesters during the debate, using water cannons and tear gas to combat protesters with firebombs. They detained 103 people and arrested five in the violence and said seven officers were injured.
Approval of austerity bill, which raises the retirement age by two years to 67 and cuts wages and pensions a second time this year, is the first of the votes required by Nov. 12 to get a 31 billion-euro ($40 billion) aid tranche and avert a financial collapse that may drive the country from the euro. Parliament will convene again on Nov. 11 to vote on the 2013 budget, a day before euro-area finance ministers meet to discuss whether to unlock the funds.

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