Greece votes in referendum with future in euro in doubt

Sat Jul 4, 2015 4:53pm EDT
 
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By Deepa Babington

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece votes on Sunday on whether to accept more austerity in exchange for international aid, in a high-stakes referendum likely to determine whether it leaves the euro-currency area after seven years of economic pain.

    Staged against a backdrop of shuttered banks and threats of financial apocalypse, the vote is too close to call and may not produce the clear mandate for negotiations that Athens’ creditors seek.

    Greeks are split on whether to accept an offer by creditors that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calls a "humiliation" and is urging people to reject. Investors and European policymakers say a rejection would set Greece on a path out of the euro, destabilizing the global economy and financial markets.

    "On Sunday we should all send a message of democracy and dignity to the world," Tsipras told tens of thousands of Greeks rallying for a 'no' vote before campaigning ended.

    Voting on whether to accept more taxes and pension cuts would be divisive in any nation, even at the best of times.

    In Greece, the choice is faced by an angry and exhausted population who, after five years of crippling austerity, have now suffered through a week of capital controls imposed to prevent the collapse of the nation's financial system.

    Pensioners besieging bank gates to claim their retirement benefits, only to leave empty-handed and in tears, have become a symbol of the nation's dramatic fall over the past decade.

    Eleven years ago, in the early morning of July 5, 2004, Greeks poured into the streets, united in celebration of their country's victory in the European Cup soccer tournament. Today, Greece is divided -- and scared -- as rarely before.   Continued...

 
A tattered Greek flag flutters in the village of Meyisti on the Island of Kastellorizo which is the most easterly of the islands in Greece, July 4, 2015. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton