Thousands of protesters encircle Parliament

Thousands of people encircled Parliament in central Athens on Wednesday in an attempt to voice their disapproval of Greece?s politicians and to oppose the government?s medium term fiscal plan, which will introduce a new round of austerity measures.

Big crowds have gathered in and around Syntagma Square and there is a tense atmosphere in front of Parliament, where riot police have formed a cordon to prevent protesters approaching.

Some protesters have been detained and the police have made limited use of tear gas.

MPs were due to begin reviewing the midterm fiscal plan on Wednesday before a vote at the end of the month or the beginning of July.

The government has come under increasing pressure from its own members as well as the ?Indignant? protesters who have gathered in Syntagma Square for the past three weeks.

Two PASOK MPs said on Tuesday they would not vote for the new austerity measures, reducing the government?s majority to four.

Greece needs to pass the latest measures in order to qualify for a second bailout, whose terms are currently being discussed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The political atmosphere was made even more tense by a Wednesday lunchtime meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and President Karolos Papoulias.

There had been speculation that Papandreou could call snap elections or propose that a qualified majority of 180 MPs out of 300 be needed for the midterm fiscal plan to be passed through Parliament.

However, in comments that were televised, Papandreou simply emphasized the need for «national consensus» on how to tackle Greece’s debt crisis, stressing that he was in contact with the other parties. Some commentators have suggested that he could be preparing to form a new, cross-party Cabinet or with members from outside of the political arena.

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