Massive Protests Rock Greece as Antonis Samaras Faces Balancing Act

Today, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece struggles to pull his three-party coalition back together long enough to pass austerity measures that will open bailout funds during his nation’s third strike in less than two months. Today, the Greek Parliament will vote on the bill, which includes cuts in pensions, benefits and wages. The vote is expected to come late tonight. Today’s legislation is the first bill that must be approved by Nov. 12, in order to unlock $40 billion worth of bailout funds.

Massive Protests Rock Greece as Antonis Samaras Faces Balancing Act

The biggest problem for Antonis Samaras is garnering enough votes to pass the bill. Analysts believe that there are 175 lawmakers Samaras can count on to back the legislation. However, coalition member Democratic Left has vowed not to vote for labor law changes that the party believes will not have any fiscal effect. At least four supporters have defected from Samaras’ coalition, one of whom belonged to Socialist Pasok, the party which usually tips the scales for Antonis Samaras so that he can get a majority vote in Parliament.

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Meanwhile the two-day strike over those austerity measures has become violent, as protestors attempted to break into Parliament today. They threw petro bombs at police, who answered with stun grenades and tear gas. In all, almost 100,000 protestors participated in the rally, although just a small handful was allegedly responsible for the violence. Workers at the parliament decided to strike, and lawmakers who opposed Samaras’ belt-tightening law walked out. Union leaders and members oppose Samaras’ legislation because they say it will protect the wealthy, while hurting the economically disadvantaged and worsening a recession that has already lasted five years, cut approximately 20 percent of the nation’s output, and increase unemployment there to a staggering 25 percent.

Support for Samaras’ party, New Democracy, is dropping rapidly amidst the protests over the austerity measures. The party’s support is now 22 percent, compared to the 29.7 percent that put Samaras in office earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn is now enjoying much-increased support after hitting third place in the polls. In less than half a year, the party has increased its support by to become the third most popular party. SYRIZA is also picking up steam, thanks to the violent upheaval against the austerity measures. That party is against bailouts and now holds the top spot in Greek polls amidst the clamor over bailouts.