Greek government lawmakers break ranks ahead of reforms vote

Greek government lawmakers break ranks ahead of reforms vote

Greece’s leftist government suffered a double blow on Thursday shortly before a bailout reform vote, with one lawmaker resigning and a second pledging to reject the bill.

The ruling SYRIZA party’s former spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis, now a lawmaker, was asked to resign amid reports he planned to boycott the vote, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ office said.

The second lawmaker said he would vote against the bill as the government had broken its promise to protect homeowners against foreclosures.

"We promised not to let a single home fall into banker hands, and fewer taxes. We did none of the above," said Nikos Nikolopoulos, leader of a small party that is part of the ruling coalition.

The defections are not expected to prevent the reforms from passing, as the government can expect the support of between 151 and 154 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber.

The bill to be voted after midnight includes new rules on home foreclosures.

Greece and its international creditors this week reached a hard-won compromise to protect around 60 percent of indebted households from having their primary residence seized.

The Greek government had sought to protect more than 70 percent of families at risk of losing their homes, while creditors had initially been willing to exclude no more than 20 percent from seizure.

After storming to power at the beginning of the year on a program to free Greece from the restrictions of bailout programs, Tsipras reversed course and accepted a new financial lifeline.

Under threat of expulsion from the euro, Greece in July accepted a three-year, 86-billion-euro ($93-billion) deal with strict conditions of further cutbacks.

Greece hopes to receive 12 billion euros from the bailout on Friday, including 10 billion to recapitalise its top banks.

Tsipras in September won a fresh election triggered by the deal, calling the bailout agreement a "painful compromise" and a "tactical retreat" that enabled the country to avoid bankruptcy and stay in the euro.

Next up, Greece must introduce new pension cuts to keep its shaky retirement system viable.

Officials have hinted that pensions above 1,500 euros ($1,600) will be slashed. [AFP]

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