Greek voters say no to austerity, banks still closed and next steps uncertain
The No’s have it in Greece, after a swift and controversial vote on more austerity. What exactly that will mean remains to be seen. Banks remain closed, withdrawals are still limited and the cash supply is dwindling. Negotiations continue and it remains unclear if the country will remain in the EU. Aris Ikonomou reports.
The streets filled with euphoric Greeks when the results of the country’s anti-austerity referendum were announced. It was a harsh struggle between the no and the yes camps, but in the end 61 percent of voters said No to more deep spending cuts in exchange for loans. Counter to earlier predictions, the Yes vote only garnered 39 percent. Perhaps most surprising was the high number of registered voters who abstained – more than a third – which surprised analysts given the polarization in Greek society.
“This vote is the people’s refusal to accept a program that will asphyxiate Greece, but it is in no way a rupture with Europe,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras following the vote. “It is a new mandate to go back to negotiations and get a better and more viable deal.”
But repercussions were swift. Early Monday, EU finance ministers and Eurozone officials underlined that the gap between Greece and the Eurozone is now wider. The country’s well-known Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has already stepped down. While many see his resignation as the first concession to creditors who complained about his negotiating methods, Varoufakis didn’t go quietly. In a blog post, the outspoken economist said the ballot will go down in history as the time when a “small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.”
The vast majority in Greece are hopeful that this vote will end five years of crisis and austerity. But even before the poll, the Greek left-wing government has already accepted 95 percent of the creditor’s demands, so despite the landslide anti-austerity vote, more budget cuts that will affect salaries and pensions are on the way and deeper privatizations of airports and ports are yet to come.
The Greek Prime Minister now has a self-imposed 48-hour deadline in which to strike a deal.