Cyprus parliament opens session on key bailout vote

The Cypriot parliament on Tuesday opened a session in which MPs are to vote on a controversial bailout agreement with a troika of international lenders, as thousands of protesters gathered outside.

It was unclear if a vote would go ahead, however, after the ruling Disy party of President Nicos Anastasiades said it would abstain, and Sigma private television reported all other parties would also not take part.

"There is no doubt, this is the most crucial session of our parliament. There is unrest among the people and they deserve an answer," George Varnavas, a lawmaker from the socialist Edek party, told the assembly.

The rightwing Disy had unanimously decided not to take part in the vote because "it will strengthen the bargaining position of the Republic of Cyprus," Disy party member Nicos Tornaritis told Sigma.

George Perdikes of the Green party told parliament: "There is now a creditocracy where countries lose their sovereignty for an illegal loan agreement that is supposedly good for them but kills growth.

"This is like falling 10,000 metres (yards) without a parachute -- the only aim of this decision is to destroy the Cyprus economy but we say no it will not pass," said Perdikes.

Outside, an AFP reporter said that thousands of protesters were lining the streets leading to the the parliament building in Nicosia, many of them waving Russian flags.

They held up banners that read "No more clowns", "Hands off Cyprus", and "The people do not own, do not pay, do not sell."

Uncertainty about the vote comes despite changes by Cyprus to the terms of the the 10-billion-euro ($13 billion) deal sealed with eurozone partners at the weekend.

A revised plan, drafted Tuesday in response to an angry backlash at home and jitters that roiled global markets, sees a one-time levy being dropped on bank savings below 20,000 euros but retained at 6.75 percent on deposits of 20,000-100,000 euros and at 9.9 percent for amounts above 100,000 euros.

The changes prompted a warning by Central Bank governor Panicos Demetriades that the bailout deal could collapse as it will now no longer "yield the estimated 5.8 billion euros agreed by the eurogroup".