Greece has been hit with a 24-hour anti-austerity strike as the government prepares to push forward latest austerity reforms. The strike has left hospitals struggling with emergency staff and has disrupted public transport, and radio and television programmes have been forced off the air. As seen by the image above, demonstrations have been ongoing for many weeks now.
Scores of demonstrators who have camped in Syntagma Square since 25 May have been joined by dozens of other demonstrators, chanting slogans outside parliament. Such demonstrations have often turned violent in the past, with clashes with the police.
The Socialist government is pushing forward a €28bn (£24bn) austerity programme this month, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European countries who could cut current funding from a rescue loan package worth €110bn (£96bn). The Socialist party have abandoned a pledge not to impose new taxes and have drawn up a four-year privatisation programme worth €50bn in order to meet the austerity its commitments – moves that have only fuelled demonstrations against the cuts by public utility employees, labour unions and other affected groups.
Greece’s programme to sell off €50bn of state-owned assets include plans to sell stakes in some of its most valuable assets, including its two largest ports, a state-owned bank, the country’s gambling monopoly and a water utility. Economists welcomed the announcement, saying that Greece needed to drastically step up its privatisation drive. The party has been delaying such measures, fearing internal opposition and backlash from labour unions.
The protestors in Syntagma Square have stated their aims to block access to the legislative assembly before MPs begin to debate the next level of cuts on Wednesday afternoon. Not all MPs have accepted the austerity measures; one MP defected on Tuesday whilst another said he would vote against the bill.
The austerity measures have, naturally, impacted on the party’s popularity in recent weeks; a recent opinion poll suggested that the opposition conservatives have a four-point lead over the Socialists in terms of public popularity, the first time the party has been in the lead (in surveys) since 2009.