Greece’s Tsipras Faces First Test Since Bailout Rebellion

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
October 16, 2015 Updated: October 16, 2015

ATHENS, Greece—Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces his first test in the country’s newly elected parliament Friday since a bailout rebellion split his party and triggered a snap general election last month.

Lawmakers will vote on a new austerity reform package to penalize early retirement and expand a widely hated property tax, among other cost-cutting commitments required in return for a 2 billion-euro ($2.3 billion) loan installment.

The loan is part of Greece’s third major bailout agreement with eurozone lenders, worth a total of 86 billion euros ($98 billion) over three years.

That July deal saw Tsipras abandon a pledge to bring an end to austerity and alienated a large section of his radical left Syriza party. The split forced him to call snap elections in August. Syriza came out on top and was able to renew a government with the small right-wing Independent Greeks.

His government is now racing to overhaul its troubled pension system and impose a raft of new cutbacks. The measures are required before crucial funds can be injected into the country’s ailing banks. The government also wants relief from its debt, which is set to exceed 190 percent of Greece’s annual national income next year. Eurozone lenders have promised discussions but only if certain economic measures are met.

The cost of the austerity measures, alongside with the ongoing controls on money transfers in the country, are expected to keep Greece in recession over the next two years and unemployment above 25 percent.

Tsipras has so far faced little dissent from his party or right-wing coalition partners during a parliamentary debate on the bill that started at committee level Tuesday. His coalition controls 155 seats in the 300-member parliament, with support from at least 151 required for the bill to pass.

A Communist-backed labor union and a union representing civil servants are planning protests in central Athens Friday. Six opposition parties in parliament have all pledged to vote against the bill.

A breakaway party formed by politicians who split with Tsipras’ party during the summer failed to get elected to parliament in the September election.