The Greek parliament has passed the first of two stringent austerity bills, demanded by international lenders but strongly resented by the Greek people.
The five-year austerity plan on tax hikes, spending targets and privatisations was passed by a slim majority of 155 votes for to 138 against.
“Our main aim is to stop Greece collapsing,” said Prime Minister George Papandreou. “It is vital to correct past mistakes, be mindful of the present and discuss the future,” he added. “Some of those protesting outside are really suffering, but others are there because they are losing perks they have become used to.”
This clears the way for a second vote on Thursday on a separate bill providing for individual budget measures and the privatisation of state assets.
Both must get the go-ahead for the EU and IMF to free up the next 12-billion-euro installment from Greece’s international loan.
If it doesn’t get the payout, the country will run out of money in weeks.