Violence offers glimpse of Greece`s reform challenge

Last Updated: Monday, February 13, 2012 - 17:11

Athens: Greeks swept rocks and broken glass from the streets of Athens on Monday after a night of violence that gave lawmakers a taste of the challenge they face in implementing a deeply unpopular austerity bill demanded by the country`s foreign lenders.

Firefighters doused the smouldering remains of several buildings, set ablaze by hooded youths during protests against the package of pay, pension and job cuts adopted by Parliament on Sunday after 10 hours of debate.

The bill was the price of a 130 billion euro (USD 172 billion) EU/IMF bailout to save Greece from a chaotic default next month.

The government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos must come up with a further 325 million euros in budget savings to satisfy eurozone finance ministers, scheduled to meet on Wednesday, and political leaders must commit to implementing the measures even after an election pencilled in for April.

Papademos` government saw 43 deputies rebel in what may be an indication of the difficulties in ensuring politicians stick to the program, which include a 22 percent cut in the minimum wage -- a package critics say condemns the economy to an ever-deeper downward spiral.

Police said 150 shops were looted in the capital and 48 buildings set ablaze. Some 100 people - including 68 police - were wounded and 130 detained, a police official said on Monday.

There was also violence in cities across the country, including Greece`s second-largest city Thessaloniki and the islands of Corfu and Crete, said the official, who declined to be named.

Greeks were shocked at the burnt buildings that included the neo-classical home to the Attikon cinema dating from 1870.

"We are all very angry with these measures but this is not the way out," said Dimitris Hatzichristos, 30, a public sector worker surveying the debris.

Altogether 199 of the 300 lawmakers backed the controversial bill. The 43 who rebelled were immediately expelled by their parties, the socialists and conservatives.

"Night of terror inside and outside the Parliament," conservative daily Eleftheros Typos wrote on its front page.

Asian shares and the euro gained modestly on Monday and MSCI`s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan edged up as much as 0.3 percent.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, February 13, 2012 - 14:46

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