Europe holds breath as Greece de­cides

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

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