NICOSIA Feb 27 Several hundred protesters
gathered outside Cyprus's parliament on Thursday jeering and
shouting "hands off" before lawmakers were due to debate a
There was a heavy police presence outside parliament where
the bill has brought the first sign of serious dissent since the
island was pulled from the brink of bankruptcy a year ago.
Parliament was due to discuss a roadmap for state sell-offs
later on Thursday, hoping to raise up to 1.4 billion euros by
2018 under a European Union and International Monetary
Fund-mandated 10-billion-euro bailout programme.
Discussions of the bill brought protests from labour unions
earlier this week.
Under the sell-off plan, the Cyprus Ports Authority, Cyprus
telecoms CyTA and the electricity authority EAC are to be
Approval of the plan is far from certain. The ruling
Democratic Rally party and a smaller ally have 21 seats in the
56-member chamber, while its principal ally, the Democratic
Party with eight MPs, announced earlier on Thursday it would be
quitting the coalition for unrelated reasons.
Labour unions have staged strikes and there were rolling
power cuts earlier in the week.
"This bill will be devastating for the organisation, it will
turn it into a private monopoly," said Andreas Panorkos, a
leader of a union at EAC.
The government says it has no choice but to approve the plan
by early March for Cyprus to be eligible for the next tranche of
bailout funds worth 236 million euros.