Greek Tragedy: Athens Ablaze as MPs Pass Reform Package

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Athens: Greek lawmakers voted overwhelmingly early Thursday to approve a harsh austerity bill demanded by bailout creditors, despite significant dissent from members of Prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ own left-wing party.

The bill, which imposes sweeping tax hikes and spending cuts, fueled anger in the governing Syriza party and led to a revolt against Tsipras, who has insisted the deal forged after a marathon summit was the best he could do to prevent Greece from catastrophically crashing out of the euro, Europe’s joint currency.

The legislation was approved with 229 votes in favor, 64 against and six abstentions – and won the support of three pro-European opposition parties.

Among Syriza’s 38 dissenters were prominent party members, including Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who many blame for exacerbating tensions with Greece’s creditors with his abrasive style during five months of tortured negotiations.

The post-midnight vote might not pose an immediate threat to Tsipras’ government, but it raised more doubts over whether it could implement the harsh new austerity program demanded by rescue lenders.

The vote came after an anti-austerity demonstration by about 12,000 protesters outside parliament degenerated into violence as the debate was getting underway Wednesday night. Riot police battled youths who hurled petrol bombs for about an hour before the clashes died down.

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