Greece poised to pass bill for wave of savage cuts
The Greek parliament looks set to vote for the deeply unpopular austerity measures which have sparked civil unrest throughout the country.
The bill, which aims to slash 28 billion euros (£25 billion) from the Greek budget, must be passed by parliament if international creditors are to release the next instalment of the country's bailout fund - and prevent a default that could have huge repercussions in Europe's banking sector and stoke renewed turmoil in global markets.
An additional bill that details how the austerity measures will be implemented must also be passed in a vote on Thursday.
The proposals by the Greek government have sparked violent protests in Athens as well as a rebellion inside the governing Socialist Party. Prime Minister George Papandreou has struggled to convince his party's deputies to back the bill. He replaced his finance minister earlier this month to assuage the concerns of some MPs.
The Socialists hold a five-seat majority in the 300-member legislature.
It now looks like only one Socialist deputy will fail to heed Mr Papandreou's call to back the measures, suggesting that the bill will get at least the 151 votes needed for it to pass.
The vote comes against a backdrop of violent demonstrations and on the second day of a nationwide general strike which has brought much of the Greek economy to a standstill.
Protesters have vowed to encircle parliament to prevent MPs from entering and voting. A massive security operation left a large section of central Athens sealed off to traffic.
Scuffles broke out as demonstrators attempted to block a major avenue leading to the centre of the city. Riot police responded with pepper spray, and 10 people were treated in a nearby hospital for minor injuries.
A day earlier, extensive clashes left at least 46 people injured, most of them police, as rioters pelted police with chunks of marble and ripped up paving stones, and authorities responded with repeated volleys of tear gas and stun grenades.
Greece has said it has funds only until mid-July, after which it will be unable to pay salaries and pensions, or service its debts, without the next bailout instalment from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. The country is also in talks for additional help in the form of a second bailout, which the prime minister has said will be roughly the size of the first.