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Despite Massive Opposition, Greece Passes New Austerity Measures

Common Dreams staff

A riot police officer was engulfed in flames after a petrol bomb was thrown by protesters outside parliament. (Photograph: Dimitri Messinis/AP)

Years and months of anti-austerity protests in Greece that culminated in a two-day national strike that saw over a hundred thousand people in the streets of Athens on Wednesday was not enough to prevent the ruling coalition government—late in the night—of passing the most recent, and critics say most severe, package of austerity measures for the economically shattered nation.

As protesters battled against riot police outside, prime minister Antonis Samaras announced that a deal was struck following hours of tense negotiations.

As The Guardian's Helena Smith reports:

As street battles raged, authorities used water cannon to disperse demonstrators throwing petrol bombs at police while loud booms and the piercing blasts of stun grenades rang out.

The small Democratic Left party, a junior partner in the tripartite alliance, abstained from supporting the bill.

Dissent in the socialist Pasok party was such that six of its 33 MPS also refused to put their names to the deficit-reducing measures, with defectors arguing they would drive the country into even deeper recession. An MP in Samaras's New Democracy party also abstained. The seven deputies were expelled from their respective parties within minutes of the roll-call.

With the Greek economy on course to contract for a sixth straight year and more than a quarter of the country's labour force out of work, Alexis Tsipras, who heads the radical left main opposition Syriza party, lambasted the government for "leading Greek people to catastrophe and chaos".

Tsipras denounced Samaras and the passed measures, and his sentiments were echoed in the streets.

"These measures are killing us little by little and lawmakers in there don't give a damn," Maria Aliferopoulou, a 52-year-old mother of two living on 1,000 euros a month, told the Daily Mail.

"They are rich, they have everything and we have nothing and are fighting for crumbs, for survival," she said.

"You live in constant fear and uncertainty. You never know what's waiting for you around the corner," Panos Goutsis, 58, who works in a small corner shop in Athens, said to Reuters.

"How many times will they tell us these are the last measures? We're sick of hearing it."

"Until now Greeks have been asleep. We haven't really reacted at all," Kostas Mitas, a 48-year-old tradesman whose views were on display in a T-shirt that proclaimed "fuck off Troika" in an allusion to the country's international creditors, said to The Guardian. "But Greeks are unpredictable and I'm afraid that they might wake up suddenly. For the moment these measures are just hypothetical but when they start to be felt we could see a lot of violence."

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