After a day of strikes and protests in Athens, Greek lawmakers approved a set of unpopular austerity measures insisted upon by the country’s creditors. The tax hikes and spending cuts were required by lenders as a precondition for opening talks on a new multi-year bailout package worth up to €86 billion ($94 billion).
The vote, which came well after midnight local time on Thursday (July 16), amounts to a victory of sorts for prime minister Alexis Tsipras, whose previous anti-austerity stance was challenged by the prospect of a total economic meltdown. He relied on votes from opposition parties to pass the measures, with 229 of the 300-member chamber voting in favor.
With 38 members of his leftwing Syriza party abstaining or voting against the prime minister, the coalition government’s majority in parliament has now all but disappeared. A cabinet reshuffle, new partnership with opposition parties, or even snap elections may soon follow.
In the hours before the vote, violent clashes broke out at an Athens rally protesting the austerity measures demanded of Greece by its creditors. Police estimated that 12,500 people were demonstrating in Syntagma Square outside Greek parliament. Some in the crowd hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the police, who responded with tear gas and pepper spray, temporarily turning the scene into fiery chaos.