By Vittorio Hernandez

Athens, Greece

The majority of members of Greece's Panhellenic Socialist Movement supported the $40 billion (EUR 28 billion) austerity measures on Wednesday.

The 155-138 vote paves the way for the release of the second payment of the country's bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The vote was made amid widespread and sometimes violent public protest in Athens initiated by union against the measures, which includes taxing minimum wage earners and other budget cuts, as well as privatization of some government assets.

Only one member of the ruling party voted against the package, two were absent and five only noted their presence without casting a vote.

Greece needs the bailout to pay its ballooning debts and avoid a default. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who made a last-minute appeal to the MPs to approve the budget, said the measures would help Greece recover.

EU officials expressed satisfaction with the parliament vote.

Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of meetings of eurozone's finance ministers, said the vote would open the door for Greece to get its bailout, which will formally be approved at an emergency meeting of the ministers in Brussels on Sunday.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy called the parliament's action a vote of national responsibility.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the vote is vital to provide stability to the euro currency. Germany is Greece's biggest creditor.

While the bloc officials are happy with the vote of the Greek Parliament, which was set to hold a second vote on Thursday on a bill that would provide guidelines on the implementation of the austerity program, Greek citizens are not happy.

To show their dissatisfaction, the strikers burned a post office on the ground floor of the finance ministry at Syntagma Square and clashed with Athen police, who used tear gas and stun grenades to dispersed the demonstrators.


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