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Greek Lawmakers Back Austerity Measures

Protests flared November 7 outside the Greek parliament in Athens.
Greece's parliament has voted to approve a series of unpopular austerity measures in order for the debt-burdened country to receive further aid from foreign lenders and avoid bankruptcy.

Lawmakers passed the measures by a narrow majority of 153 votes in the 300-seat chamber.

The package of measures, worth some 13.5 billion euro ($17 billion), was required by the lenders in order for Greece to receive its next bailout loan installment of 31.5 billion euros.

Without the funds, the Greek government has warned it would run out of money by the middle of November, forcing it to declare bankruptcy.

Ahead of the vote, tens of thousands of Greeks protested against the austerity measures outside parliament.

Riot police responded with a water cannon, tear gas, and stun grenades to repel some protesters who clashed with police.

The parliament debate also took place on the second day of a two-day nationwide strike that has disrupted public transport and closed schools and government offices.

The austerity measures include salary cuts, tax hikes, and rules making it easier to fire workers, including civil servants. They include raising the retirement age to 67, cutting the minimum wage, and cuts to pensions.

The measures, to be gradually implemented, are aimed at reducing Greece’s public deficit to around 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2016.

Opponents say the measures are taking Greece backward by years and impoverishing ordinary people.

Ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told lawmakers the measures were necessary for Greece to avoid bankruptcy. He said that without them, Greece could be forced out of the euro currency union and back to its old currency, the drachma.

He also described the measures as long overdue after years of profligate spending and said the reforms mark a “revolution.”

Parliament is due on November 11 to vote on the 2013 budget. The package of austerity measures and the new budget have been demanded by Greece’s troika of international creditors – the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank – in exchange for the loan tranche.

The November 8 vote revealed strains over the measures within the ruling three-party coalition. Shortly after the vote, two of the parties – Samaras’ New Democracy and the Socialists – expelled seven lawmakers from the parties for not backing the austerity measures.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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