ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's lawmakers approved a key austerity bill Wednesday, paving the way for the country to get its next vital bailout loans that will prevent it from defaulting on its debts next month.
The unpopular euro28 billion ($40 billion) five-year package of spending cuts and tax hikes was backed by a majority of the 300-member parliament Wednesday, including Socialist deputy Alexandros Athanassiadis, who had previously vowed to vote against. A conservative deputy broke ranks with her party's line to also vote in favor, bolstering the government's majority of five seats in the 300-member parliament.
Another bill detailing measures to implement the measures goes for a vote Thursday.
The European Union and International Monetary Fund have demanded both bills pass before they approve the release of a euro12 billion loan installment from last year's rescue package.
Greece has been relying on the euro110 billion ($157 billion) bailout loans for the past year, and without the next installment it faces becoming the first eurozone country to default next month.
The vote took place as clashes between police and protesters broke out outside Parliament, with the booms of stun grenades and tear gas resonating across the square outside the building.
In the run-up to the vote, violence engulfed the square outside. Riot police fired volleys of tear gas at swarms of young men who were hurling rocks and other debris as well as setting fire to trash containers.
Police with truncheons occasionally charged the demonstrators, but pulled back just as quickly.
Police stun grenades boomed and flashed, often drawing jeers and boos from the crowds.
Most of the anti-government protesters who marched to the square stayed clear of the fighting, but they vented their anger at the political establishment with chants and insults.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)