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Greek Parliament Debates Austerity Measures In Bailout Deal


In Athens today, there were protests outside the Greek Parliament as its members debated the country's proposed bailout deal.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Greek).

CORNISH: Today is the deadline set by European lenders to pass new laws in order for the bailout to proceed. But the new regulations have split the ruling party, and even Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he doesn't agree with them. But he says there is no other way to keep Greece solvent and in the eurozone. Joanna Kakissis joins us now from Athens to tell us more. And Joanna, let's just start with those protests outside Parliament. Who was out there?

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: So these are trade unionists who have traditionally protested to get what they want. This has been happening for 40 years in Greece. This is just what they do so the government can meet their demands. They're also leftists, and they're also sort of professional protestors that go protest everything that they don't like. And then there are the anarchists who want to tear down the capitalists and the banksters of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, and they always throw gas bombs at everything with no care at all about what damage they're going to cause.

And I know the cameras are always focused here, but this is a miniscule part of Greek society. These people do not represent most Greeks. A new poll, for example, shows that Greeks want this deal so they can fight to stay in the Eurozone, and most people support Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to help them.

CORNISH: So is Parliament actually just expected to pass these bills tonight?

KAKISSIS: Yeah. They are expected to pass but not because of united support by Syriza. That's the prime minister's leftist party. Many in Syriza just - they're not really angry about the bills on the table tonight. What they're really angry about is the next step, and that's the opening of negotiations with the eurozone on a deal that they find draconian and insulting. Syriza is just falling apart right now. Half of the party refuses to support this deal because they say, well, people elected us to reject austerity, so why are we giving them more? And former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis - he compares this deal to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles that crushed Wehrmacht Germany and gave rise to Nazism in World War II.

CORNISH: But the prime minister has his supporters in Parliament. What are they saying about this deal?

KAKISSIS: Yeah. That's the other half of Syriza, and they're saying look, we've got to stick behind the prime minister because there's no other alternative. It's the only way to keep Greece from going broke and being forced to exit the eurozone. And what they're saying is, hey, that's what German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble wants, you know? He's the guy who's trying to force a coup of our government, so why give him the pleasure? And I think what the party's not seeing is that they're performing the coup all on their own by attacking each other. Meanwhile, the strangest thing is happening because the opposition parties - the parties that the government has refused to work with the past six months - they are now united behind the prime minister and this deal, and they say, you know, we're going to do whatever we can to save Greece, and this is not a time for vicious partisan politics.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, the big question is about the banks, right? How soon will they reopen if these bills go through?

KAKISSIS: The answer about the banks is actually nobody knows what's going to happen. Officially, the banks could open any day, but the prime minister said in an interview yesterday that it could be a month. And a banking expert I spoke to said it could be two months. Whatever happens to the banks, they're in really serious trouble without any eurozone help.

CORNISH: That's reporter Joanna Kakissis speaking to us from Athens. Joanna, thanks so much.

KAKISSIS: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.