Greek PM Alexis Tsipras yesterday called on voters to reject “blackmail” when they vote in a bailout referendum tomorrow.
In a short TV address, he insisted Greece’s presence in the EU was not at stake and urged voters to reject the “sirens of scaremongering”.
Tomorrow, Greek voters will decide whether they support the terms of further international loans, following months of tough talks with creditors.
Banks have been shut and limits imposed on withdrawals, with the head of Greece’s banking association warning that although the banks have enough funds until Monday, they will be dependent on the European Central Bank thereafter.
Mr Tsipras called the referendum last weekend, asking Greeks to decide whether to accept creditors’ proposals for more austerity in exchange for more loans, even though those proposals are no longer on the table.
He says a No vote would put him in a stronger position to seek a better deal for Greece within the 19-nation eurozone to reduce its 320 billion-euro national debt and make payments more sustainable.
Whatever happens, the future for Greece will be toughJeroen Dijsselbloem, minister
In the televised address yesterday, Mr Tsipras urged Greeks to vote “no to ultimatums, divisions and fear”.
He emphasised that tomorrow’s referendum was not a vote on whether Greece will remain in the euro.
But opposition parties and many European officials say a No vote would drive Greece out of the euro and into an even more impoverished future.
Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis yesterday said that an agreement with the country’s creditors “is more or less done” and that the only issue left is debt relief.
But the head of the eurozone finance ministers’ group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, harshly rejected those comments, saying negotiations were not still going on.
“There are no new proposals from our side and, whatever happens, the future for Greece will be extremely tough,” Mr Dijsselbloem said.
“To get Greece back on track and the economy out of the slump, tough decisions will have to be taken and every politician that says that won’t be the case following a No vote is deceiving his population.”
A poll conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, and published in Greece’s To Ethnos newspaper yesterday, showed the two sides in a dead-heat. It also showed an overwhelming majority – 74 per cent – want the country to remain in the euro, compared to 15 per cent who want a national currency.
Of the 1,000 respondents to the nationwide survey, 41.5 per cent will vote Yes and 40.2 per cent No – well within the margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Another 10.9 per cent were undecided and the rest said they would abstain or leave their ballots blank.
Both sides were trying to sway the undecided in rallies last night, to be held 800m apart in central Athens.
Mr Tsipras was due to speak at the No rally in the capital’s main Syntagma Square outside parliament, while Yes supporters were set to gather at the nearby Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.
The vote could be the most important in Greece’s modern history, but the question is said to be unclear and many are confused about what is at stake.
The council of state, the country’s highest administrative court, was to rule last night on a motion brought by two private citizens asking for the referendum to be declared illegal.
Tomorrow’s vote “is invalid because it expressly violates the constitution, which stipulates that a referendum cannot take place on economic matters”, Spyridon Nicolaou, one of the two filing the motion, said.
“But it’s also invalid because it doesn’t incorporate the text of the documents on which the Greek people are called on to decide. Would anyone from Evros (in far north-eastern Greece) know the specific documents?”
A separate group has filed a counter-motion supporting the referendum’s legality.
Greeks to head home for crunch vote in economic referendum
Many Greeks living in the UK will return to the troubled country this weekend to vote in a crucial referendum over its economy, the Greek Embassy said.
Those who are unable to return at short notice say it is “always on their mind” as their concern for family members in Greece grows.
Voters will be asked in tomorrow’s poll whether to accept an austerity package put forward by international lenders in return for a further bailout from the eurozone rescue fund.
Greek citizens living in the UK can only take part in the referendum if they return to Greece to cast their vote.
A spokesman for the Greek Embassy in London said: “Many people will make the effort to go back if they can because it’s a pivotal moment in our recent history. We cannot measure the numbers, but I have heard of many people from the Greek community here in the UK going back.”
Banks have been closed all week in Greece to prevent a run driven by savers withdrawing cash amid uncertainty about whether the country will crash out of the euro, after falling into arrears with the International Monetary Fund.
The Greek Embassy said that Greek tourists visiting the UK are facing the same €60 (£43) restrictions on withdrawing money from their bank accounts.
“Tourists might have a problem with the ATM because of the bank limits,” he said.
“The government has said they are going to look in to that and a find a solution for people outside of the country.”
Marina Livaniou, 30, a Greek teacher from north-west London, said she is becoming increasingly stressed about the situation in Athens where her parents live.
“I’ve been following the news every day and speaking with my family, who are very mixed up because they voted for this government. It’s difficult, especially for my father who is a pensioner and has been queuing to get money out of the bank. They’ve been trying to use my card so they can get some more money. It’s a very hard time. I can hear how stressed they are on the phone and it affects me. I’m very worried for my country.
“I would love to be able to vote from here because going back is not an option – flights are expensive in summer and I would have to get child care and cover for work.”
Chris Neophytou, who runs a Greek patisserie in Wood Green, north London, said: “A lot of my customers and staff are Greek and it is all they are talking about. It is always on their mind. But it is very hard for many of them to go back to vote, as much as they wish they could. In the last year or so I have noticed an influx of Greek people coming to London looking for work, they come in here asking for jobs. It is very difficult situation for them back home.”