Greeks head for polls in bailout referendum

5th Jul 2015


[Photo: Supporters of YES vote to the upcoming referendum hold a demonstration in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens, Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Photographer: Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency]

 

By Bahattin Gonultas

 

ATHENS (AA): Millions of Greeks headed to the polls on Sunday to vote on proposals for bailing out their ailing economy.

The vote, which some claim will also determine Greece’s continued membership of the eurozone, will see around 10 million Greeks eligible to vote either “Yes” or “No” on proposals to raise taxes and cut spending from Greece’s creditors the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The past week saw the country’s bailout program expire on Tuesday when it defaulted on a 1.5 billion euro ($1.7 billion) repayment as banks closed their doors and put limits on cash withdrawals.

The polls opened at 7 a.m. local time (0500GMT) and close 12 hours later. An indication of the result will be known later in the evening.

The voters will select a box to either approve or reject the further austerity measures proposed by the “troika” of creditors to the Eurogroup on June 25.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have been at the fore of calls for a “No” vote, claiming it will give the government greater power in its negotiations with creditors.

“Many people may ignore the will of the government but the people’s will cannot be ignored,” Tsipras said after casting his vote in Athens on Sunday.

“People in Greece will decide their own destiny. I am sure that after tomorrow a way will be opened for a return to the founding values of Europe.”

European politicians involved in the talks have claimed the opposite and say rejecting the proposals risks a Greece exit from the euro.

“If they say ‘No’ they will have to introduce another currency after the referendum because the euro will no longer be available as a means of payment,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in an interview with German radio station Deutschlandfunk on Sunday.

“The moment someone introduces a new currency, they exit the eurozone. Those are the elements that give me some hope that the people will not vote ‘No’ today.”

The troika is demanding further pension cuts and tax increases for business and farmers in return for a 7.2 billion euro bailout.

Greece urgently needs 16.3 billion euros to pay public servants and keep the country running.

Radical Left Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou told Anadolu Agency that Greeks should vote against the “unsustainable” proposals that are “not going to work”.

He added: “The country’s creditors were not planning to get their money back… they wanted to get rid of Tsipras. The Europeans do not want to see anyone challenge their power as Tsipras did.”

The referendum was preceded on Friday by rallies across Greece organized by both camps. Opinion polls on Friday indicated the country was more or less evenly split between a “Yes” and a “No” vote.

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