NEWS

Reform bill approved but government loses two MPs

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The government on Thursday passed a final set of reforms required for the release of up to 12 billion euros in loans. But the bill’s passage came at a cost as two MPs who broke ranks with the government were ousted from their parties’ parliamentary groups, reducing the government’s majority to three.

The multi-bill was approved with 153 votes to 137 in the 300-seat House. Apart from stricter terms for the protection of first homes from repossessions, it includes a small tax on wine (at 20 cents a liter, half the amount originally proposed by the government).

The wine tax, along with a small tax on games of chance, allowed the government to revoke a controversial proposal for a value-added tax on private education.

The two MPs who defected on Thursday night were Stathis Panagoulis of leftist SYRIZA, who abstained, and Nikos Nikolopoulos of Independent Greeks (ANEL), who voted “no.”

Earlier in the day, former government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis resigned in protest at the new measures. His resignation had no impact on the government’s majority as he gave up his seat which was taken by Alternate Administrative Reform Minister Christoforos Vernardakis.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was swift in responding to dissent. His attempt to display a zero tolerance approach comes as government officials and representatives of Greece’s international creditors discuss a second set of tough measures including increases to farmers’ taxes and a pension overhaul.

The passage of the bill on Thursday is aimed at unlocking a 2-billion-euro loan tranche from the third bailout and paving the way for the release of up to 10 billion euros for recapitalizing Greek banks. A decision on the timing of the disbursements is expected on Friday.

Writing on Twitter on Thursday night, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici seemed upbeat. “Tonight’s vote in Athens is another step forward for Greece,” he wrote.

“We will assess with other institutions and report to EWG tomorrow,” he added, referring to a summit of the Euro Working Group.