ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek lawmakers on Sunday began debating legislation introducing severe austerity measures necessary for the country to secure a €130 billion ($171.46 billion) bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and stave off bankruptcy.
The legislation will also approve a bond-swapping deal with private creditors that will allow Greece to shave off at least €100 billion of its €360 billion debt.
The debate started shortly after 3:30 p.m. local time (1330 GMT), and will take at least ten hours, finishing well past midnight. Opponents of the legislation have adopted a tactic of frequent and loud interruptions and objections that may further delay debate.
Unions have called for a large protest outside Parliament starting at 5 p.m. Communist-affiliated unions will hold a separate meeting at the same time and will march to Parliament. Protesters are expected to stay outside the building throughout the vote.
Authorities, afraid the protests might turn violent, have deployed some 6,000 policemen in the capital's city center.
Pro-communist unionists have been driving through Athens' neighborhoods since early morning, calling for people to participate in the protests. The skies are clear after morning rain, giving a boost to those hoping for a large turnout.
The two parties backing the coalition government have 236 deputies in the 300-member Parliament, but at least 13 conservative and seven socialist lawmakers have declared they will vote against the legislation, defying their leaders' threats of sanctions. Early Sunday, a conservative lawmaker resigned, joining three socialists who did the same earlier this week.
Debt-stricken Greece does not have the money to cover a €14.5 billion bond repayment on March 20, and must reach a vital debt-relief deal with private bond investors before then. Greece's woes have threatened its future in the 17-country zone that uses the euro currency.
The Europeans are waiting to see Greece finally act on their commitments.
Introducing the legislation Sunday -- amid much interruption -- socialist lawmaker Sofia Yiannaka said Parliament is called to approve painful measures with its back to the wall, adding that the intense pressure from Greece's EU partners to pass the measures was the result of delays in implementing already agreed reforms.
"The delays have our imprint. We should not blame foreigners for them," she said.
"We have finally found out that you have to pay back what you have borrowed ... We used to say 'poor state, but rich citizens' because we tolerated tax evasion for populist reasons. Is this the country we want?" Yiannaka added.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.