Protests erupted in Greece Wednesday as the Greek Parliament approved harsh new austerity measures in exchange for a third European bailout. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won the parliamentary vote by a vote of 229 to 64. But 32 members of his own Syriza party voted against the plan, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Lawmakers approved the harsh austerity measures just days after voters rejected similar reforms in a referendum, including retirement age increases, tax hikes, public spending cuts, pension adjustments and collective bargaining restructuring in exchange for up to $94 billion. The vote came amid worker strikes, peaceful marches and violent clashes between protesters and police across Athens. We go to Greece for an update from Theodoros Karyotis, a sociologist, translator and activist who has been participating in grassroots movements and protesting austerity.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Protests erupted in Greece Wednesday as the Greek Parliament approved harsh new austerity measures in exchange for a third European bailout. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won the parliamentary vote by a vote of 229 to 64. But 32 members of his own Syriza party voted against the plan, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. Greece’s deputy finance minister, Nadia Valavani, resigned ahead of the vote.
NADIA VALAVANI: I’m not going to vote for this agreement. And this meant that I cannot stay as a member—I cannot stay in the government. It’s only decent that, you know, I surrender my ministry.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Greek politicians approved the harsh austerity measures just days after voters rejected similar reforms in a referendum. The measures include retirement age increases, tax hikes, public spending cuts, pension adjustments and collective bargaining restructuring in exchange for up to $94 billion. Ahead of the vote on Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed his reservations about the bailout but urged Parliament to support it anyway.
PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS: [translated] I will admit that the measures we are tabling are harsh, and I don’t agree with them. I don’t believe they will help the Greek economy, and I say so openly. But I also say that I must implement them. That is our difference.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The vote came amid worker strikes, peaceful marches and violent clashes between protesters and police across Athens. Demonstrators spoke to The Real News network about why they oppose the deal.
DIMITRI VOURAKIS: I’ve come here to protest against the austerity programming of the new—the austerity program of the new Greek government, because it’s an austerity program much worse than that of the right wing. And they are using the so-called, under parentheses, left-wing government in order to implement the program that they couldn’t do it with the right-wing and the center-wing government.
MARIA TSIOBANIDI: I don’t have a job. Do you see that? And now, the thing is that they don’t going to take more people, their jobs; going to fire people, because they don’t have enough money to pay them.
DIMITRI VOURAKIS: I think that the working masses, as the new memorandum goes on, they will realize on their own skin the austerity of the program, and they will abandon the governing party.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go now to Thessaloniki, Greece. That is Greece’s second largest city, where protests also broke out on Wednesday. We’re joined by Theodoros Karyotis, a sociologist, translator and activist who’s been participating in grassroots movements and protesting austerity in Greece.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the vote that took place in the Greek Parliament yesterday, Theodoros, and the response in the streets?
THEODOROS KARYOTIS: Yeah. Of course, as they announced it could be a package of really harsh measures, and the main opposition to these measures right now is their own base, Syriza party, including the Syriza Youth and many, many associations linked to Syriza, and about 30, as we saw, of their own members of Parliament. The protest in the street, it was much—let’s say it was not as massive as when the previous austerity packages were voted in. That is probably the outcome of two weeks of a campaign of terror and blackmail on behalf of the Central European Bank and their European partners, mainly, who have Greece on a chokehold, on a financial chokehold, and have tried to instill fear on most people in order to accept this austerity package.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Theodoros, could you explain, are protesters there calling for Greece to leave the eurozone?
THEODOROS KARYOTIS: Of course, one of the main criticisms of the anti-austerity movement, in general, toward Syriza is that it never really opened the public dialogue on the future of Greece outside the eurozone. It’s never really talked about a plan B, thinking that the plan A of ending austerity within the eurozone purely by force of argument, because the argument is very valid, would have a fortunate conclusion. We saw that the [inaudible]—
AMY GOODMAN: Theodoros, I’m going to interrupt, because we have this breaking news from Wall Street Journal: Eurozone finance ministers agree in principle to grant three-year bailout to Greece. Your quick response? You have 10 seconds.
THEODOROS KARYOTIS: OK, as I was saying, there is a turning of the public feeling right now, that they realize that the eurozone is not compatible with social justice. So there are more and more voices that are trying to envision a future outside the eurozone.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Theodoros Karyotis, sociologist, activist, has been participating in grassroots movements protesting austerity in Greece, speaking to us from Thessaloniki.