Greece’s lawmakers are to vote Thursday on intensely unpopular new measures needed to secure continued payment from an international bailout fund as the country remains paralyzed by a two-day general strike.
Protesters headed to Athens’ main Syntagma Square outside Parliament, while one communist party-backed union vowed to encircle parliament in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from accessing the building for the vote on spending cuts and tax hikes required by Greece’s international creditors.
The bill won initial approval in a first vote Wednesday night, and deputies are now to vote on the details, which include the suspension on reduced pay of 30,000 public servants and the suspension of collective labor contracts.
Creditors have demanded the measures before they give Greece more funds from a €110 billion ($152.11 billion) package of bailout loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. Greece says it will run out of money in mid-November without the next €8 billion ($11 billion) installment.
Coming after repeated rounds of belt-tightening as the government struggles to pull the country out of its debt crisis, the measures have been deeply unpopular. Even deputies from the governing Socialist party have expressed outrage, with several indicating they could vote against some of the more contentious articles in the bill. Dissent could further weaken Prime Minister George Papandreou's slim majority in Parliament, where he holds 154 of the legislature’s 300 seats.
Thursday’s protests come a day after a massive demonstration by more than 100,000 people degenerated into violence, with groups of black-clad demonstrators pelting riot police with chunks of marble, paint and gasoline bombs. Police responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades that reverberated across the Greek capital's main square.
The clashes continued sporadically into the night in the back streets near Syntagma, where protesters set fire to piles of garbage festering on the streets after a strike by municipal workers.
Authorities said 50 police and at least three protesters were injured in the clashes.
The second day of the general strike Thursday was disrupting public transport and left ships docked at port, schools and customs offices closed and state hospitals running on emergency staff. All public services were shut, while lawyers and prison guards were among those staying away from work.