Greek vote campaign begins amid grinding cash crisis
ATHENS - The Associated Press
REUTERS photoThe battle for Greek votes entered full swing on July 2 ahead of a crucial weekend referendum that could decide whether the country falls out of the euro.
For Greeks, particularly the elderly, the daily struggle to get cash ground on in the face of uncertainty.
Greece’s rescue lenders have halted negotiations on a new financial aid program until after the vote on whether to accept reforms the creditors proposed last week in exchange for bailout loans.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has staunchly advocated a “no,” saying it would put the country in a stronger negotiating position with creditors. But European officials and the Greek opposition have warned such an outcome could be tantamount to a decision to leave the euro.
“The consequences are not the same if it’s a yes or no,” French President Francois Hollande said.
“If it’s the yes, even if it’s on the basis of proposals that have already expired, negotiations can resume and I imagine be quickly concluded,” he said during a visit to Cotonou, Benin. “We are in something of an unknown. It’s up to the Greeks to respond.”
Until then, the country remains in limbo, with banks shut and strict cash withdrawal limits imposed.
Crowds of elderly Greeks, some struggling with walking sticks or being held up by others, thronged the few banks opened to help pensioners without debit or credit cards withdraw at least some money.
The question on the ballot is whether they accept or reject a reform proposal made by creditors during negotiations last week.
But that particular proposal is no longer on the table. It was amended later in the week and has now been rendered moot by the fact that Greece’s international bailout expired June 30. The same day, the country also became the first developed nation to miss a debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund.
The country is now seeking a different deal with its European creditors. But European officials have said they cannot negotiate until after the July 5 vote.
The head of the eurozone finance ministers’ group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says it will be “incredibly difficult” to build a new bailout package for Greece if the country votes “no”.
He raised questions about the government’s ability to continue talks in such a case and rejected its argument that it would be in a stronger bargaining position with a ‘no’ vote.
“That suggestion is simply wrong,” Dijsselbloem told lawmakers in the Netherlands.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Bloomberg TV he would resign in case of a “yes” vote. Tsipras has implied he could do the same.