GREECE’S radical left-led government survived another revolt by rebels yesterday and passed reforms that should pave the way for the start of bailout discussions with European creditors.
The reforms to the judiciary and banking systems were the final hurdle Greece had to clear before talks can start over a third bailout worth around €85 billion (£60.2bn).
Without the money Greece would be unable to pay the debts due over the coming three years and would likely be forced to leave the euro single currency.
Discussions over the details of the bailout, which will involve economic targets as well as potential debt relief for Greece, should begin “as swiftly as possible,” according to the European Commission.
The hope on both sides is that the discussions will conclude by 20 August, when Greece has a payment of a little more than €3bn due to the European Central Bank. The EC welcomed the Greek parliament’s vote in favour of further reforms, saying it had taken “another important step toward implementing its commitments” made during a summit of European leaders last week.
Greek MPs voted 230-63 in favour of the measures, following a whirlwind debate that ended at 4am. Another five members of the 300-seat house voted present, a kind of abstention.
Prime minister Alexis Tsipras was unable to forestall a second revolt in a week among his Syriza MPs, but had no trouble passing the draft legislation with the backing of pro-European opposition parties.
Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili conceded there is a clear rift within Syriza, but would not say whether rebels would be expelled. Mr Tsipras has accused party critics of acting irresponsibly.
“From this point on, party procedures will be followed in order to deal with the problem,” she said after the vote.
The number of disaffected Syriza MPs, who see the reforms as a betrayal of the anti-austerity platform that brought their party to power in January, shrunk slightly compared to last week’s similar vote – from 38 to 36. Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis voted in favour this time following his vote against last week’s austerity measures, which included big increases in sales taxes.
Though the number of rebels diminished, it’s still roughly a quarter of all party lawmakers.
Addressing parliament before the vote, Mr Tsipras said the reforms were a necessary price to keep Greece in the euro.
“We have chosen a compromise that forces us to implement a programme in which we do not believe, and we will implement it because the alternatives are tough,” he told MPs. “We are summoned today to legislate under a state of emergency.”
Mr Tsipras also ruled out resigning.
“The presence of the Left in this government isn’t about the pursuit of office, it’s a bastion from which to fight for our people’s interests,” he said.