Greek PM faces biggest party revolt yet as bailout approved

Tsipras came under fire over the bailout, which comes with tax hikes and tough economic reforms.

FILE: A screengrab shows Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressing the nation in Athens on 1 July 2015. Picture: AFP.

GREECE - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced the widest rebellion yet from his leftist lawmakers as parliament approved a new bailout programme on Friday, forcing him to consider a confidence vote that could pave the way for early elections.

After lawmakers bickered through the night on procedural matters, parliament comfortably passed the country's third financial rescue by foreign creditors in five years thanks to support from pro-euro opposition parties.

That clears the way for euro zone finance ministers to approve the first batch of aid from the €85 billion package later on Friday, though deep doubts remain in major creditor Germany about whether Athens will fulfill its pledges.

"I do not regret my decision to compromise," Tsipras said as he defended the bailout from euro zone and International Monetary Fund creditors that comes at the price of tax hikes, spending cuts and tough economic reforms. "We undertook the responsibility to stay alive over choosing suicide."

But the vote laid bare the depth of anger within Tsipras's leftist Syriza party at austerity measures as 43 lawmakers, or nearly a third of Syriza deputies, voted against the bailout deal or abstained.

It also left the government with support from within its own coalition below the threshold of 120 votes in the 300-seat chamber, the minimum needed to command a majority and survive a confidence vote if others abstain.

In response, government officials said Tsipras was expected to call a confidence vote in parliament after Greece makes a debt payment to the European Central Bank on 20 August, a risky move that could trigger the collapse of his government and snap elections.

A senior lawmaker, Makis Voridis, from the opposition New Democracy party said his party would not vote in favor of the government, raising the odds that Tsipras's coalition could be toppled.

Still, some of those who rebelled against Tsipras on Friday could still opt to support the government in a confidence vote, as could other pro-European parties like the centrist Potami and the center-left PASOK, leaving unclear the final outcome.