Europe holds breath as Greece decides
POLLS for Greece’s crucial referendum on whether or not to accept international creditors’ conditions for a bailout were under way yesterday, with the EU on tenterhooks for an outcome which could shape the bloc’s future.
Almost 10 million Greeks eligible to vote had until 7pm local time yesterday ( 2am this morning AEST) to cast their ballots, with results on the plebiscite – cast by many eurozone leaders as a vote on whether to leave the single currency – expected early this morning.
The rest of Europe, and international investors, will be watching intently, unsure of the outcome that could greet them today.
Polls suggest the “Yes” and “No” camps are neck- andneck.
“I’m voting ‘ No’ because I think it’s better for the country,” said 80- year- old Michelis, first in through the doors of a school being used for the vote on Skoufa Street in central Athens.
“If we vote ‘ No’ they’ll take us more seriously,” he said, adding that he was “not voting for myself, but for my grandchildren” and their future.
Theodora, 61, a retired journalist, said she was voting “Yes” because “it’s a ‘ Yes’ to the European Union”.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has staked his political career on the plebiscite.
He announced it a week ago in a bid to break a five- month impasse with international creditors, insisting a “No” vote would force a restructuring of Greece’s massive debt and a softening of drastic austerity conditions.
But many who first backed him have swung to the “Yes” camp, heeding warnings from EU leaders, notably European Commission chief JeanClaude Juncker, that a “No” vote could result in Greece being expelled from the 19member eurozone – a so- called “Grexit”.
Mr Tsipras was adamant on Friday in pushing for a “No” vote, when he told a crowd of 25,000: “On Sunday, we don’t just decide to stay in Europe – we decide to live with dignity in Europe.”
Financial analysts have said they doubt a “Yes” or a “No” would greatly change things. Many said they expected negotiations would resume in either case, though a “No” could still conceivably hasten a “Grexit”.
Some of the world’s top economists, however, said Greece’s least- bad choice was to vote “No,” accept a painful exit from the euro but then claw its way back to economic stability through a devalued new Greek currency.
Nobel laureate Paul Krugman said a “No” vote “will also offer Greece itself a chance for real recovery”.
MASS APPEAL: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses his supporters during a ” No” campaign rally in Athens.