The Greek government accepted the austerity it had opposed and the people had voted against, taking the terms of the European Union bailout.
Hours after police and demonstrators clashed in central Athens, Greek lawmakers on Thursday approved austerity measures that were overwhelmingly rejected by their citizens just days ago.
The vote represented a stark turnabout for the government, and it was the price Greece’s lenders demanded for saving the country from a whirlwind of economic turmoil. It was a stunning defeat for populist forces that have pushed for a break from years of grinding cuts that powerhouse economies led by Germany have enforced as the key to growth.
In the new topsy-turvy reality, leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was tasked with advocating a stricter version of the austerity he has long opposed. In a sign of his new weakness, 40 of the 149 lawmakers from his Syriza party abandoned him, saying their nation was taking more of the same toxic medicine that had forced it into five years of penury. The defections threatened the stability of his rule, raising the specter of fresh elections and even more economic turmoil.
In the short term, the adoption of the new measures was a milestone on the road toward European approval of an up to $96 billion bailout, sparing Greece from surefire bankruptcy and its ouster from the shared euro currency. Already, banks have been closed for more than two weeks. With a dearth of cash to fuel basic transactions, Greece’s economy is slowly suffocating under the pressure.