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Greece Expected to Pass Austerity Despite Protests

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Even though protests erupted into violence, it looked likely that Greece's Parliament would pass the tough austerity measures demanded by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for the next tranche of funding to ward off default. However, it remains to be seen whether the Greek government is strong enough to get laws passed in a Thursday vote and then keep to an EU/IMF schedule of putting them into effect.

According to a Reuters report, defections from the ruling PASOK party made it less and less likely that a vote would pass, particularly as Greek citizens made clear their opposition to measures that would only worsen their present situation of high unemployment and a shrinking economy. Protesters tried to block the route to Parliament and police fired tear gas into crowds in Athens into the night on Tuesday; trade unions struck as well, but lawmakers managed to enter the building anyway and began deliberations.

In spite of the protests, one formerly opposed PASOK member gave way and an opposition party member also broke with her party to support the legislation. Conservative opposition lawmaker Elsa Papadimitriou said in the Reuters report, "It is the most important decision and challenge of my political life. Well, [I will vote] yes, and I hope the government does not disappoint me."

Former foreign minister Dora Bakoyanis, leader of a small center-right splinter group of five deputies, is also expected to help the measures' passage. Bakoyanis has been lobbied determinedly by EU officials and has said she will abstain, with the other four members free to vote their conscience.

Greece's central bank governor, George Provopoulos, was quoted in the Wednesday Financial Times saying, "For parliament to vote against this package would be a crime. The country would be voting for its suicide."

Strong continued opposition, however, cast into doubt the potential for success in implementation even if the measures pass, and many economists still foresee default as inevitable. The timetable the country must adhere to in cutting expenses and raising funds is strict; if it does not succeed, the EU and IMF will cut off funding from the rescue package and other measures will have to be implemented.