Athens, Jul 3: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras today urged voters to ignore European scaremongering and vote 'No' in this weekend's referendum as polls showed support swinging behind the 'Yes' campaign.
Huge rival rallies are expected in central Athens late Friday to galvanise support for each side in Sunday's plebiscite. Many Greeks, who are struggling under capital controls that have limited daily ATM withdrawals to just 60 euros ($67), fear EU leaders' warnings that a 'No' vote could mean Greece's exit from the euro -- a Grexit.
The sense of building crisis was heightened further by a eurozone emergency fund officially declaring Greece to be in default. The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which provided funds to eurozone countries in difficulty, said however it won't demand immediate repayment of its Greek loans worth 145 billion euros (USD 160 billion). Tsipras insisted that his decision to stop debt negotiations last week and call the referendum "does not mean a break with Europe".
He called on creditors to restructure Greek's unsustainable 323-billion-euro debt mountain by forgiving 30 per cent of the debt owed to them and allowing a 20-year grace period for repaying the rest. Confusion is widespread over the very technical question posed in the referendum, compounding concerns over what the post-vote consequences might be.
The two latest polls published today showed voter intentions were effectively tied. An Alco institute poll found 44.8 per cent of Greeks intend to vote 'Yes' and 43.4 percent are for 'No'. A Bloomberg survey for Greece's Macedonia University was equally split, showing 43 percent to vote 'No' and 42.5 percent 'Yes'.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned that Greece's negotiating position, far from being strengthened, would be "dramatically weakened" in the event of a 'No'. Even if the 'Yes' vote wins, there would still be "difficult" negotiations ahead, he added. Greek voters are confronted with a referendum question that has stumped many.
The question reads: "Should the deal draft that was put forward by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in the Eurogroup of June 25, 2015, and consists of two parts, that together form a unified proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled 'Reforms for the Completion of the Current Programme and Beyond' and the second 'Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis'."
Eurozone officials have firmly said that the "deal" referred to expired on Tuesday -- the same day Greece failed to make a 1.5-billion-euro payment to the IMF, becoming the first developed country ever to do so. On July 20, Greece looks likely to be unable to repay another 3.5 billion euros owed to the ECB. Some voters who initially backed the government have swapped sides ahead of Sunday's ballot.