NEWS

Amid tension, Greek MPs prepare to vote on loan deal

Parliament is due to begin debating at 2 p.m. on Sunday the details of Greece?s new loan agreement ahead of a midnight vote on whether to accept the deal that would see Athens receive 130 billion euros in return for wide structural reforms, public sector cuts and reductions to private sector salaries.

The loan deal was approved by Parliament?s economic affairs committee on Saturday following seven hours of intense debate. The plenary session of Parliament is expected to be equally heated. A number of PASOK and New Democracy MPs have said they will oppose the measures, adding to the tension of the occasion.

By Sunday morning, at least six New Democracy MPs and 10 PASOK deputies have stated publicly that they will not vote for the loan agreement. Several more from each party are thought to be poised to vote ?no? as well.

Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), a junior partner in the coalition government until Friday, said that it would oppose the measures. However, two of its 16 MPs ? Makis Voridis and Antonis Georgiadis ? indicated they would approve the new package.

Even LAOS?s departure leaves the interim government with 236 deputies in the 300-seat Parliament and it would clearly take a significant rebellion of more than 80 MPs from PASOK and ND for the bill not to pass. The leaders of the two parties have warned deputies that they could be expelled from their parties if they fail to vote for the package.

The debate in Parliament comes in the wake of warnings from PASOK leader George Papandreou, New Democracy president Antonis Samaras and Prime Minister Lucas Papademos about the potentially dire consequences of Greece not opting for the new bailout.

In a televised address on Saturday evening, Papademos said that if MPs do not approve the deal, Greece would enter a disorderly default in March as it would not be able to meet 14.5 billion euros of bond maturities.

"A disorderly default would set the country on a disastrous adventure,» he said. «It would create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion."

"The country would be drawn into a vortex of recession, instability, unemployment and protracted misery and this would sooner or later lead the country out of the euro."

Thousands of Greeks are expected to gather outside Parliament from 5 p.m. to protest the austerity measures in the latest package.

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