Athens Burns As Hellenic Parliament Votes Yes To New Austerity Bills
The cradle of western civilization, the ancient centre of Athens, is burning as a majority of Greek MPs voted yes to new austerity bills. More than 40 historic buildings are burning to the ground, including the one housing the Bank of Cyprus in the city.
Fire-fighters, assisted by police, are trying to put out the fires but they are prevented from doing so by a vandalous group of protesters dubbed the Black Bloc. The fires started during clashes between vandals throwing Molotov cocktails and riot police.
Composer Mikis Theodorakis and anti-nazi symbol Manolis Glezos* had to be taken to hospital after inhaling tear gas. Later they were allowed to sit in the parliament and observe the process.
At least 100,000 mostly peaceful demonstrators called by the trade unions gathered outside the Hellenic parliament to protest against the new austerity measures.
The unpopular measures include 300 million euros in pension cuts, 15,000 public-sector job cuts, liberalisation of labour laws and lowering the minimum wage by 20% from 751 euros a month to 600 euros. Also discussed are private sector involvement (PSI) in a write-down of Greece’s sovereign debt, the recapitalization of banks and authorization of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance to sign the new loan and austerity measures agreed with the troika over the last few days.
199 MPs from the two major parties voted yes and 74 voted no.
Twenty-two members of PASOK were expelled from the party, right after the voting ended for voting no. Twenty-one was the number of MPs expelled from Nea Democratia for the same reason.
Two members of LAOS were expeled form it for voting yes. The President of the party George Karatzaferis, had left the government coalition earlier over a disagreement on the austerity bills.
The situation in the centre of Athens is chaotic and ambulances are constantly carrying injured, whose number cannot be determined at the moment, to various hospitals.
Police reported that over100 arrests were made and over 70 were injured.
The first time Athens burned so severely was in 490 BC, by Xerxes I the King of Persia, when he realised that the Athenians had left the city in order to ambush his army. Legend has it that he regretted it immediately.
The subsequent rebuilding of the city coincided with the golden age of Greece that saw the rise of a new age of Democracy, arts and sciences and gave birth to western civilisation.
It was often said in Greece, especially by academic, politician and philosopher Kostas Zuraris, that the only way for the country to be build on a solid base and prosper is if it’s burned again or if it hits rock bottom.
Psychology in Athens is at its lowest point at the moment but there some that say that maybe the time for rebirth has come once more.
Political scene in an uproar
The leaders of Nea Democratia Antonis Samaras and PASOK George Papandreou tried to rally their party members to stay in line with their decision, but they both have a very hard task ahead as the state faces another 15,000 job cuts.
Talking to his party members after some of them voiced their disagreement, Samaras warned them that whoever votes no will not be on the party’s ballot in the next elections.
"I call upon you today to act responsibility towards the country, not towards the party" Samaras said, adding that "nothing is easy, this time we have to choose between hard and harder. You are wrong if you go to the people and say that there are easy solutions.”
He argued that the only responsible power today in Greece is Nea Demokratia, saying that "Greece should remain on its European course and the party has a responsibility towards that”. He talked about the memorandum, saying that “it includes two basic conditions, the public sector finances and the structural measures, if I had the opportunity to negotiate, I would have included development measures that currently do not exist.”
But if 85 billion Euros are lifted from the country’s shoulders through the PSI then we can at least have some relief, he said. Samaras finished his speech by asking party members to trust him.
Things are even worse in PASOK, where four MPs have already resigned and many others have voiced their intention to vote no. There cannot be an assessment at this point of how many will obey to party lines but the discussions heated up when they were also warned they would be struck off the party’s membership list.
Speaking to the naysayers George Papandreou said: "Anyone who wanted a referendum, which is a democratic process, should have supported me when I proposed it. Now we have to understand who our enemies are. The problem is not internal party democracy, we struggle with the markets now."
In the aftermath of the vote, websites belonging to PASOK and Nea Demokratia were hit by Anonymous with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
Meanwhile, in an interview with “Kathimerini” newspaper, the managing director of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) Charles Dalara urged MPs to vote yes to the agreement, emphasizing the benefits of the write-down of the Greek debt: "it will remove a significant burden off the backs of the Greek people representing over half the income of every Greek citizen for six months " he said.
He noted that Greece has achieved unprecedented fiscal adjustment and criticized those who give an overly negative picture of the country. He appears optimistic that the "haircut" of debt, which will reach close to 70%, combined with the reforms will pave the way for significant capital inflows, stabilization of the Greek banking system, the creation of new jobs, and the building of a new competitive Greece. He estimates that if all goes well, in early 2013, the current recession and painful austerity will be replaced by development and new opportunities for the Greek economy.
*On May 30, 1941, Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas climbed on the Acropolis and tore down the swastika, which had been there since April 27, 1941, when the Nazi forces had entered Athens. That was the first resistance act that took place in Greece. It inspired not only the Greeks, but all subjected people, to resist against the occupation, and established them both as two international anti-Nazi heroes.
The Nazi regime responded by sentencing Glezos and Santas to death in absentia. Glezos was arrested by the German occupation forces on March 24, 1942, and he was subjected to imprisonment and torture. As a result of this treatment, he was gravely affected by tuberculosis. (Wikipedia)
Want to comment? Click here for membership to CyprusNewsReport.com, and keep in touch by subscribing to our newsletter below.