Government waits for loan after second vote

The government on Thursday voted for the implementation of an austerity package it had approved on Wednesday in a second parliamentary vote that effectively secured for Greece the next tranche of emergency funding it needs to stave off bankruptcy.

The bill – which outlines the implementation of the government?s complex midterm fiscal plan – was passed with all 154 MPs of ruling PASOK – and one conservative defector – voting for, 136 deputies voting against, and with five blank ballots and four abstentions. PASOK now has 154 deputies following the ousting of Panayiotis Kouroublis, who voted against the austerity measures on Wednesday.

The main conservative opposition New Democracy party also lost an MP, Elsa Papadimitriou, who voted for the austerity plan, breaking ranks with the party line and declaring herself an independent.

With the two votes in the bag, the onus shifted on Thursday to Greece?s creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – who are now expected to approve the release of 12 billion euros in emergency funding that the country needs to meet its financial commitments through the summer.

The decision is expected to be rubber-stamped on Sunday at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is to join his eurozone peers on Sunday, has said that Greece will be able to display ?credibility? to its creditors with the two votes approved.

Addressing the Cabinet on Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister George Papandreou said the votes were a major step forward. ?We fought and won a difficult battle, unified, all Greeks together,? Papandreou said. ?Our chief duty now is to extract the country from the crisis as quickly as possible so that hope will return.?

The outcome of Thursday?s vote was also welcomed by European Union officials. ?This was the second decisive step Greece needed to take in order to return to a sustainable path,? European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a joint statement.

?In very difficult circumstances, it was another act of national responsibility. The conditions are now in place for a decision on the disbursement of the next tranche of financial assistance for Greece and for rapid progress on a second assistance package.?

The EU leaders repearted calls for cross-party consensus on the government?s austerity drive Antonis ND has repeatedly attacked the austerity program, inviting criticism also from its conservative peers in the bloc. ?In view of the hard work that still lies ahead, we repeat our call for all political parties to work together to take to their country forward,? they said.

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