Two-Day General Strike Fails to Derail Austerity in Greece
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has secured the votes needed to pass a sweeping austerity package, according to Guardian Athens correspondent Helena Smith.
The outcome flies in the face of hopes that what Greek unions have called "the mother of all strikes" would avert new budget cuts. The past two days have seen public transportation, government buildings and schools all grind to a halt in the third strike waged in the past two months. As tens of thousands gathered in Syntagma square during the Wednesday night vote, clashes ensued between demonstrators and riot police. Freelance journalist Janine Louloudi reported the liberal use of teargas on protesters trying to remain in the square against police orders.
151 votes were needed to pass the measures, and it garnered only 153. The Democratic Left, a junior member of the country's three-party ruling coalition, refused to back the measures, but most of its members voted "present," in essence abstaining from the vote. Six members of PASOK, another member of the coalition government, were expelled after they refused to toe the party line and voted against the measures. In response, Greek human rights activist Asteris Masouras tweeted, "Greek democracy keeps strangling itself, party discipline still stronger than conscience in Parliament."
The Greek Parliament will now take a recess until Thursday night, when it will begin debating the 2013 budget. According to Louloudi, protesters are vowing that they will also return for a Sunday night vote.