Despite significant opposition last week – both in and out of parliament – to many of the economic measures included in the omnibus bill, its ultimate passage was little surprise to many in Greece. Also of little surprise was that the vote in favour of the measures – that had been agreed with the troika for the release of the much delayed 11.8 billion euro loan tranche – came during a day characterized by high drama on the part of both coalition and opposition MPs.

The 600 page bill contained only three articles to be voted on in order to minimize the possibility of defection on the part of governing New Democracy and PASOK MPs. With a majority of only 153 in a 300 seat parliament, the room for error was marginal. (Note that a number Golden Dawn MPs were not present for the vote due to their pre-trial imprisonment pending criminal prosecutions. In total 288 MPs were present).

Following the official request of SYRIZA, the first two articles were voted on in a named vote by parliamentarians. The first article concerned the so called OECD ‘toolbox’ – a series of market reforms designed to open close professions and reduce consumer prices that included controversial changes to the rules governing the sale of fresh milk and pharmaceuticals. During the vote the government sustained its first loss as ND MP Nikitas Kaklamanis voted ‘present’. The article was passed 152 in favour to 135 against.

For his rebellion Mr Kaklamanis, who is currently pursuing a mayoral campaign, was stricken from his party by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, reducing the number of coalition MPs to 152.

However even more significant shock waves were caused during the vote for the second article which concerned measures establishing the framework for the re-privatization of the banks by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund. Former Prime Minister and PASOK MP George Papandreou voted against the measure in a surprise move that provoked the wrath of Deputy PM and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos. Together with Mr Papandreou, Apostolos Kaklamanis also rebelled against his party by voting ‘present’. Overall the measure was passed with 151 votes in favour.

Following the vote Mr Venizelos reportedly confronted Mr Papandreou in his office where the two had a heated discussion during which Mr Venizelos is said to have struck the table and accused the former Prime Minister of ‘political hooliganism’. However despite the rebellion neither Mr Papandreou, nor Mr Kaklamanis were stricken from the party (a move which would have left the coalition government without an absolute majority and possibly triggered snap elections).

In subsequent statements apparently directed at Mr Papandreou, Mr Venizelos said of the rebellion, “No member of the parliamentary group of PASOK raised any issues with regards to these measure [for the recapitalization of the banks], either in our meeting the day before yesterday, nor in today’s debate over the measure in parliament.”

“As such no one has the moral or political right to present himself as supposedly more sensitive regarding this issue than today’s PASOK MPs, who have borne and are bearing the burden of the crisis… Hypocrisy and personal political games are what brought the country and the political system to its current state. These are the practices that it is our duty to overturn. We are all judged by the party and the political system.”

In response Mr Papandreou, somewhat cryptically, more or less repeated Mr Venizelos’s statement almost word for word. “Indeed hypocrisy and personal political games are what brought the country and the political system to its current state. These are the practices that it is our duty to overturn. Indeed, no one has the moral or political authority to present himself as supposedly more sensitive than the MPs of PASOK – who from the moment the crisis began, shouldered and are shouldering a disproportionate burden. We will all be judged by the party and the Greek people.”

The third and final article of the package of economic measures was also passed yesterday thus clearing the way for the eurozone’s finance ministers to give the green light for the next 11.8 billion euros in bailout loans to be released by the European Commision and IMF. These are necessary to prevent the country from defaulting on bonds which are due to mature in the coming months. A Eurogroup meeting is due to take place in Athens tomorrow although it is expected that the final decision on the loan tranche will not be taken until the 17th of April.

Meanwhile SYRIZA also opposed the omnibus bill in its own dramatic fashion earlier in the day by submitting a motion for a vote of no-confidence over Finance Minister Giannis Stournaras. The opposition leader Alexis Tsipras referred to the minister as, “the key administrator of a death contract against the Greek people.” Had the motion been accepted it would have taken precedence and delayed the vote on the economic reforms. However after a period of confusion and high drama the President of the Parliament Vaggelis Meimarakis ultimately accepted Mr Venizelos’s argument that the motion was effectively the same as the vote of no confidence in the government as a whole submitted by SYRIZA in November and therefore should not be debated (according to parliamentary procedures such votes must come at least within six months of each other).

Following high tensions and a whirlwind of harsh exchanges between SYRIZA and the government over the motion, the opposition party submitted another motion of no confidence in the President of the Parliament before walking out in protest. That motion is due to be debated today. Mr Tsipras later addressed a crowd of approximately 12,000 people who had gathered in Syntagma square in a peaceful protest against the reforms, before he and his party’s MPs returned for the parliamentary vote in the evening.

Following the vote SYRIZA released a statement saying, “Today’s marginal result during the vote of the omnibus bill proves the reason why the government, in violation of every sense of constitutionality did not want to accept the no confidence motion submitted by SYRIZA against Mr Stournaras over the crucial issue of the banks. In reality neither the government, nor Mr Stournaras have the confidence of the Greek people.”