ATHENS - The Greek parliament on Thursday approved, with the votes of the government majority, a new austerity bill needed to receive the next instalment of a billion euro bailout loan, including unpopular new pension cuts and tax increases.
The votes of the left-wing Syriza party together with the government's partner party, Independent Greeks, amounting to a total of 153, were sufficient for the Parliament to pass the new austerity measures, while 128 other lawmakers voted against the package.
The parliamentary approval was a prerequisite for the Eurogroup to give the green light to the disbursement of the next bailout package, worth about 7 billion euros, at the meeting scheduled for May 22.
The government is confident that creditors will grant them further debt relief, with debts currently at 179 percent of Greece's gross domestic product (GDP), a level the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calls unsustainable.
The debt relief would allow Greece to enter the European Central Bank's bond purchase plan soon, which in the short or medium term would put the country in a position to gradually return to the markets.
About 12,000 people, according to the police, gathered Thursday afternoon in front of the parliament to protest against the new austerity package, just a day after a general strike, marking a week of mobilizations and partial strikes in the public services.
The demonstration was mainly peaceful, although several anarchist groups threw Molotov cocktails at the statue of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament and clashed with the police.
The security forces initially managed to dissolve protesters with tear gas but later several other similar incidents took place in the areas close to Syntagma Square in central Athens.