Greece backs austerity amid clashes

Rioters take on police in Athens

The passage of the bill was a decisive step for the country to get the next batch of bailout loans from international creditors and was met with a huge sigh of relief in markets and by Greece’s partners in the eurozone. A Greek default could potentially trigger a banking crisis, particularly in Europe, and turmoil in global markets.

Another bill has to be passed Thursday for the government to secure the money. The bill to cut spending and raise taxes by euro28 billion ($40 billion) over five years, and raise euro50 billion ($71 billion) in privatizations over the same period of time, has provoked widespread outrage, coming after a year of deep cuts that have seen public sector salaries and pensions cut and unemployment rise to above 16 per cent.

While deputies voted, stun grenades echoed across the square outside the Parliament building and acrid clouds of tear gas hung in the streets. The violence continued sporadically after the vote and smoke was billowing from beneath the Finance Ministry.

Authorities and emergency services said 31 police and 15 protesters were injured and transferred to hospitals, while 30 people were detained, and 11 arrested. Volunteer doctors said they had treated about 40 people, most with facial injuries and breathing problems, at a makeshift treatment site at a metro station next to parliament.

Head medical volunteer Flegas Stagos said more seriously wounded protesters were put onto the metro with volunteers so they could receive treatment away from the tear gas. The European Union and International Monetary Fund have demanded both bills pass before it releases a euro12 billion installment of the country's euro110 billion ($157 billion) bailout fund. Without it, Greece was facing defaulting on its debts by the middle of next month.

Even with the installment, Greece is still in financial trouble and has been in talks with its international creditors for a second bailout, which Prime Minister George Papandreou has said will be roughly the same size as the first.

“We must avoid the country’s collapse with every effort,” Papandreou said before the vote.

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