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Tensions high in Greece as lawmakers brace for second vote

Protests are continuing ahead of today’s bill, which is needed to push through the austerity measures that were agreed yesterday.

An elderly man holds the Greek flag as tear gas billows in Athens yesterday
An elderly man holds the Greek flag as tear gas billows in Athens yesterday
Image: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

THE GREEK PARLIAMENT will hold a second vote on controversial austerity measures today, after more violent clashes between protesters and police overnight.

The vote is on the implementation of the budget-cutting measures which were approved in principle yesterday. Like the first ballot, it must be passed if Greece is to receive the next chunk of its €110billion IMF/EU bailout fund. Government officials are confident that the deputies who supported yesterday’s measures by a 155 to 138 majority will also push this bill through, the BBC reports.

Long-running protests in the capital Athens worsened yesterday afternoon as the vote was taken, and continued overnight. Crowds hurled petrol bombs – setting fire to the post office in the finance ministry building – and police fought back with tear gas and stun grenades.  Doctors treated hundreds of people for respiratory problems, the Irish Times reports.

Debate on today’s measure began at 9.30am local time and the vote is expected to be held around 2pm. Prime minister George Papandreou has a wafer-thin majority of 154 seats in parliament after expelling a rebel deputy for voting against yesterday’s bill. The law – which aims to save Greece €28billion with privatisation measures, state sell-offs, tax increases and public sector cuts – will require 151 votes to be passed.

Around the world, financial markets welcomed the news that yesterday’s initial bill had been passed. The euro climbed as did shares, according to Reuters. International leaders also hailed its passage, with German chancellor Angela Merkel calling it “really good news”, CNN reports.

Protests against the austerity measures, which opponents say target the weakest in society, are expected to continue today.

Video: Protests overnight in Athens

Gallery: Athens burns as riots seize the Greek capital >

Read more: Greece passes austerity measures >

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Michael Freeman

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