20 Oct 2011

Greece faces austerity vote and more strikes

10:17 pm on 20 October 2011

Greek protesters marched on parliament on Thursday, raising the prospect of more violence in strikes against austerity measures parliament is poised to approve to try to stave off bankruptcy.

Deputies are expected to give a final green light to the belt-tightening plan required by the European Union and International Monetary Fund after a first reading on Wednesday, when protesters pelted police with petrol bombs and chunks of marble.

But at least two ruling party MPs have said they may vote against one of the bill's provisions, threatening to weaken the government's narrow majority as it battles a debt crisis that is shaking global markets, Reuters reports.

On Thursday Sofia Giannaka, a potential rebel deputy, indicated she would probably vote in favour of the provision, which suspends some collective pay accords, but she said she would not accept any more major cuts. "There will be no next time," she told Greek radio.

The government's majority of 154 seats in the 300-member parliament is expected to see the bill through, but any defections would be embarrassing as Athens struggles to convince international lenders to continue their support.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has appealed for support before a European Union summit on Sunday where leaders are hoping to set the outlines of a new rescue plan intended to stave off bankruptcy for Greece and stop the crisis spreading to other euro zone countries.

Running battles between black-clad demonstrators and riot police on Wednesday left streets in central Athens covered with smouldering rubbish and lumps of masonry hacked off buildings in a repeat of clashes seen in anti-austerity protests in June.

The violence overshadowed the first day of the 48 hour strike that shut down much of the country and brought at least 100,000 people to the streets of the Greek capital to protest against the latest package of cuts.

Ministries, schools and other public buildings will be shut, transport services will be severely restricted and hospitals will be running on skeleton staffing, while many shops will also be closed.

Thousands of police will be deployed through central Athens.