Greece secures votes to pass reform bill demanded by EU/IMF lenders

ATHENS, March 31 Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:12pm EDT

ATHENS, March 31 (Reuters) - Greece's government secured enough votes in parliament early on Monday to pass a key reform bill demanded by its international lenders, in exchange for further bailout loans to avoid default.

A majority of deputies voted in favour of the reform measures Athens agreed earlier this month with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, after more than six months of tough negotiations.

Passing the bill was a condition for Greece to qualify for fresh bailout aid it needs to repay 9.3 billion euros of debt maturing in May.

But it also gives a boost to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government before local and EU elections in May, as it includes a 527-million euro windfall to be spent on poor, austerity-hit Greeks.

This amount is funded out of Greece's 2013 budget surplus, which exceeded lenders' forecasts.

A poll published on Saturday, the first to be conducted after Greece's deal with its lenders', showed Samaras's New Democracy party nudging ahead of the main opposition, the leftist Syriza, for the first time in six months. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou)

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