Sunday, 5 July 2015

Greeks say: No more austerity

Greeks overwhelmingly voted against further austerity on Sunday, in a referendum of crucial importance to the country's economic and political future.

With three quarters of votes counted, the No vote, backed by the ruling leftists, won more than 61 percent of the vote, far above the 36 percent of the vote the ruling Syriza took in January's general election. The Yes vote, backed by the opposition, took only 38 percent.

The referendum, which had taken on the import of a general election, reinforced the authority of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. It also appeared to vindicate - at least at the national level - his decision to walk out on talks with the country's creditors last weekend and ask for a better deal. Whether the results will produce that is another matter.

Tsipras has said he will have a new agreement that finances his government within 48 hours of a No vote. But the first messages from European leaders suggest that a deal may not be forthcoming. Germany deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was quoted as saying that Tsipras had torn down his last bridge of compromise.

"With this No, the Greek people have said no to five years of hypocrisy - to five years of pretence that the non-viability of the state could be overcome with new, unsustainable loans," said finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. "With this tool we shall extend a hand of cooperation towards our partners. We shall call them one by one to find a common ground." 

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