Greece to Vote on More Bailout Reforms

Greece to Vote on More Bailout Reforms

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek lawmakers began another emergency debate Wednesday on further economic reforms demanded by international creditors in return for a new bailout — a vote that could threaten the survival of the coalition government and trigger fresh fears over the country's future in the euro.

The vote later on changes to the judicial and banking sectors is one of the requirements that Greece's European creditors insisted upon for negotiations on a third bailout worth around 85 billion euros ($93 billion) to begin.

After losing the support of a large chunk of his own party's lawmakers during a vote last week on a creditor-demanded austerity measures, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is having to rely on support from pro-European opposition parties to gain parliamentary approval.

Negotiations with creditors are expected to start soon after the vote later. The Greek government's hope is that they conclude before Aug. 20, when Greece must repay loans worth more than 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to the European Central Bank.

The measures demanded by creditors for a bailout have caused much consternation within Tsipras' radical left Syriza party. Many, including former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, voted against last week's austerity measures, which included big increases to sales taxes that came into effect at the start of this week. If more than a handful more dissent later, then Tsipras' government could be in peril.

The party's traditional base within the trade union movement is also angry at what it sees as Tsipras' betrayal of his electoral mandate. A union representing civil servants is planning an anti-government protest outside parliament before the vote that is expected around midnight (2100GMT).

Tsipras has accused party critics of acting irresponsibly.

"I've seen a lot of reactions and heroic statements, but so far I haven't heard any alternative proposal," Tsipras told party lawmakers on Tuesday, according to a senior government official. The official asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the parliamentary vote.

Tsipras also said that those who support the country's exit from the euro or handing so-called IOUs to pensioners instead of their pensions "should come out and say it, instead of hiding behind the safety of my signature."

The reforms considered Wednesday are aimed at reducing the country's court backlog and speeding up revenue-related cases. Lawmakers have also been called to approve reforms related to banking union mechanisms, aimed at reducing the risk for European governments from bank crises.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said Greece and bailout lenders planned pension spending cuts required "further study" before being submitted to parliament.

(KA)