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Greece bracing for 2 decisive votes this week

Associated Press Modified: November 4, 2012 at 6:16 pm •  Published: November 4, 2012

Evangelos Venizelos, the socialist leader, will meet with his own deputies Monday to brief them of the final contents of the bill and to prod them to vote for it. Party officials were saying they expected about six dissidents.

The coalition government has 175 MPs in the 300-member parliament, including 127 from conservative New Democracy, 32 from socialist PASOK and 16 from the Democratic Left. Four MPs of the three parties have recently declared themselves independent.

The bills only need a simple majority of those present to pass and the Democratic Left's opposition to the bill should not threaten its passage. Also, dissidents are being pressed to abstain from the vote, which would lower the number of votes needed for passage. But a passage with fewer than 151 votes would be a big blow to the coalition government and reinforce the opposition's argument that it lacks legitimacy to pass such measures.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition, on Sunday called for elections as the only way out. His party is leading recent opinion polls.

Unions have called for a wave of strikes this week, including a general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. Transportation will be especially affected in Athens, with the subway and taxi drivers on strike starting Monday. Hospitals, ports and other services will be severely curtailed. Further action could take place later in the week.