Greece says 'OXI' to austerity with overwhelming referendum
NEWS CENTER (DİHA) - Greece lurched into uncharted territory and an uncertain future in Europe’s common currency Sunday after voters overwhelmingly rejected demands by international creditors for more austerity measures in exchange for a bailout of its bankrupt economy.
Greeks voted overwhelmingly on July 5 to reject terms of a bailout, risking financial ruin in a show of defiance that could splinter Europe. With nearly half of the votes counted, official figures showed 61 percent of Greeks rejecting the bailout offer. An official interior ministry projection confirmed the figure as close to the expected final tally.
The astonishingly strong victory by the 'No' camp overturned opinion polls that had predicted an outcome too close to call. It leaves Greece in uncharted waters: risking financial and political isolation within the euro zone and a banking collapse if creditors refuse further aid.
But for millions of Greeks the outcome was an angry message to creditors that Greece can longer accept repeated rounds of austerity that, in five years, had left one in four without a job. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has denounced the price paid for aid as "blackmail" and a national "humiliation."
Hundreds of Greeks began pouring into the central Syntagma square in front of parliament to celebrate, after a week of building desperation as banks were shut and cash withdrawals rationed to prevent a collapse of the Greek financial system.
Officials from the Greek government, which had argued that a 'No' vote would strengthen its hand to secure a better deal from international creditors after months of wrangling, immediately said they would try to restart talks with European partners.
But euro zone officials shot down any prospect of a quick resumption of talks. One official said there were no plans for an emergency meeting of euro zone finance ministers on July 6, adding the vote outcome meant the ministers "would not know what to discuss."
Many of Athens' partners have warned over the past week that a 'No' vote would mean cutting bridges with Europe and driving Greece's crippled financial system into outright bankruptcy, dramatically worsening the country's economic depression.
The result also delivers a hammer blow to the European Union's grand single currency project. Intended to be permanent and unbreakable when it was created 15 years ago, the euro zone could now be on the point of losing its first member with the risk of further unraveling to come.
Greek banks, which have been closed all week and rationing withdrawals from cash machines, are expected to run out of money within days unless the European Central Bank provides an emergency lifeline. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is due to meet top Greek bankers later on July 5 and State Minister Nikos Pappas, one of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's closest aides, said it was "absolutely necessary" to restore liquidity to the banking system now that the vote is over.