Greece’s parliament gave initial approval yesterday to a new round of belt-tightening needed to avert default, despite violent protests during the biggest rally in two years against the bitterly resented measures.

Hours after Greek police clashed with black-clad demonstrators outside parliament, all 154 of the ruling Socialist PASOK party’s lawmakers voted in favor of the measures, which must secure a second vote today before the new wave of austerity is enforced.

The view of the ancient Acropolis was obscured by smoke from burning piles of rubbish and a bank building was evacuated after being set on fire by petrol bombs as a strike called by Greece’s two main unions degenerated into violence outside parliament.

“It’s one of the biggest demonstrations in recent years,” said Mary Bossis, international security professor at the University of Piraeus. “People showed they were determined to protest against these policies.”

 

After repeated rounds of austerity measures, which have hit middle class Greeks hard, protesters said new cuts would only drive the stricken economy deeper into the ground. Unions urged deputies not to pass the law.

Trapped in the fourth year of deep recession, which few now believe can be paid back, Greece has sunk even deeper into crisis.

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