Greece prepares for crucial referendum

Greece prepares for crucial referendum

Greece prepares for crucial referendum

An elderly man is crying outside a national bank brunch as pensioners queue to get their pensions, with a limit of 120 euros, in Thessaloniki on 3 July, 2015. AFP Photo

Greeks are preparing for a referendum on July 5 that will see the debt-ridden country either accept or reject punishing austerity measures imposed by international creditors amid a serious cash crisis, street protests and increasing threats from global institutions. 

The polls ahead of the referendum have showed that the number of “yes” and “not” voters has been very close to each other. A new survey on July 3 showed a swing against the government to a “yes” result, amid a sense of crisis fuelled by cash rationing and burgeoning protests, as reported by AFP.

The poll by Greece’s Alco institute said 44.8 percent of Greeks intend to vote “yes” and 43.4 percent are for “no” – making it the first published survey to give a lead to the “yes” vote ahead of the July 5 ballot.

However, the survey’s margin of error of 3.1 percentage points meant the end result was still too close to call.

Stakes are high in the plebiscite, with EU leaders warning a “no” would jeopardize Greece’s place in the 19-nation eurozone. But Greece’s radical left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras fiercely rejects that, and says the referendum is only about whether Greeks are willing to accept tougher austerity in return for international bailout funds, as underlined by AFP. 

Although Greece’s European creditors have signaled there would be no talks until they see the referendum results, Greek officials said there is still hope of reaching a deal even ahead of the referendum. 

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said July 3 that it was not “too late” for Athens to reach a deal with its international creditors ahead of the referendum.

“Whether there is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’ an agreement is in the offing,” Varoufakis told the Irish national broadcaster RTE, as reported by AFP. 

“If there’s a ‘yes,’ the Greek government is simply going to sign on the dotted line on the proposals by the institutions on the 25th of June. If it’s a ‘no,’ I can assure you that during this week of impasse we’ve had some very decent proposals coming from official Europe, confidentially. A deal is more or less done.”

Varoufakis explained that private talks had continued with the European Commission and the European Central Bank this week, despite several European leaders ruling out talks until after the referendum.

“I don’t think it’s too late. We could do a deal tomorrow morning,” he said.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund delivered a stark warning on late July 2 of the huge financial hole facing Greece as angry and uncertain voters prepare for the referendum.

Days after Greece defaulted on part of its IMF debt, the fund, part of the lenders’ “troika” behind successive international bailouts, said Greece needed an extra 50 billion euros over the next three years, including 36 billion from its European partners, to stay afloat, reported Reuters.