After Rejecting Referendum, Greeks Feel Betrayed By Latest Bailout Plan
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The Greek Parliament has met in Athens, and despite a fierce debate, it has approved the government's latest request for a bailout. The $59 billion loan request sent to the IMF and European lenders includes promises of more pension cuts and more tax-hikes. Greece's leftist government which swept into office in January promised to end five years of austerity. Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens that Greeks who voted against austerity in last Sunday's referendum are feeling betrayed.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Former aid worker Dora Oikonomidou became an anti-austerity activist because she found the bailout programs drafted by bureaucrats in Brussels and at the International Monetary Fund unfairly targeted the poorest Greeks. She helped to vote in the left-wing Syriza Party because she believed its leaders would fight those policies.
DORA OIKONOMIDOU: I expected to be disappointed because you're always disappointed, but I didn't expect this. Of course, I knew that they would never be able to implement everything they said, but to have these botched negotiations, they completely underestimated what they were up against.
KAKISSIS: She says Syriza, which is now governing Greece, should have realized that eurozone and IMF leaders would not budge. And when push came to shove, she says, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras should have threatened to leave the euro. Instead, he called the last-minute referendum in which Greeks voted no to more austerity.
OIKONOMIDOU: And two days later, the no becomes a yes. This is not OK. The party that was defending democracy that people like me voted for because they were defending democracy turns a no into a yes.
KAKISSIS: They could have cut high public sector salary, she says. They could have taxed the church. They could have even cut their own wages. Now, she says, they are hitting the poor, the same thing previous governments did.
OIKONOMIDOU: I feel completely betrayed because this is not what I signed up for when I voted for Syriza, and it's not what I signed up for when I voted no in the referendum.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting in Greek).
KAKISSIS: Thousands of no-voters rallied today outside Parliament calling for their government to respect their Democratic vote. Even so, 20-year-old student Joanna Sallas says she will still support the government.
JOANNA SALLAS: I think that they were really pushed to do such things and that they didn't understand that we - that the people of Greece is here with them, and we are already - we are ready to do everything that we have to have our lives back.
KAKISSIS: But inside Parliament, anti-austerity hardliners in the Syriza party were furious. Lawmaker Rachel Makri said she would not support the leadership.
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RACHELL MAKRI: (Speaking Greek).
KAKISSIS: "Personally, I won't allow you to find yet another reason to sacrifice this country and its citizens," she declared. "And I won't let you do it with my vote."
At a square in the Kallithea neighborhood in Athens where nearly two-thirds of residents voted no, 65-year-old Nikos Karmarkos says he's relieved the government capitulated.
NIKOS KARMARKOS: (Through interpreter) If we didn't have an agreement, there goes Greece. We would've been isolated in Europe. And if living with austerity means living in Europe, then I will be patient and live with austerity.
KAKISSIS: Nearby, Thimios Tsoukis, a 78 year-year-old retired tailor, shakes his head. He might have his pension cut under the new austerity measures.
THIMIOS TSOUKIS: (Speaking Greek).
KAKISSIS: "The Prime Minister needs time, and I know he's really trying," Tsoukis says. "This is a critical time," he says, "and all Greeks need to rally around the government." For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.