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Alexis Tsipras puts austerity reform package before Greek parliament

Left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras today faces his first test in the Greek parliament since a bailout rebellion split his party and triggered a snap general election last month.

Politicians will vote on a new austerity reform package to penalise early retirement and expand a widely hated property tax, among other cost-cutting commitments made for a two billion euro (£1.47 billion) loan instalment.

The loan is part of a third major bailout agreement with the eurozone lenders, worth 86 billion euro (£63bn). That July deal saw Mr Tsipras abandon a pledge to end austerity and alienate a large section of his Syriza party, forcing him to the polls for a second time in eight months.

Greece is now racing to overhaul its troubled pension system and impose a barrage of new cutbacks, struggling to keep pace with bailout targets as it seeks rescue funds for its banks. It also wants improved bailout repayment terms as its massive national debt is set to exceed 190% of annual output next year.

The additional austerity measures are expected to keep the country in recession over the next two years and unemployment above 25%.

Mr Tsipras, however, faced little dissent from his party or right-wing coalition partners during a parliamentary debate on the bill that started at committee level on Tuesday. His coalition controls 155 seats in the 300-member parliament, with support from at least 151 required for the bill to pass.

A Communist-backed labour union and a union representing civil servants are planning protests in central Athens today. Six opposition parties in parliament have all pledged to vote against the bill.

A breakaway party formed by politicians who split with Mr Tsipras' party during the summer failed to get elected to parliament in the September election.

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