PM Alexis Tsipras led a "No" rally of thousands in Athens as campaigning ended ahead of the referendum on bailout terms from international creditors. There were thousands at the "Yes" campaign rallies too.
Political rallies and publication of new opinion polls were banned for 24 hours ahead of Sunday's referendum on acceptance or rejection of the terms offered by Greece's international lenders for further funding. The vote was called by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has promised to end austerity.
Tsipras addressed a rally of 30,000 supporters in Athens on Friday night. "This is not a protest. It is a celebration to overcome fear and blackmail," he said. The Prime Minister urged Greeks: "turn your backs on those who terrorize you daily."
Tsipras said Greece needed to reduce its 323-billion-euro ($358-billion) debt burden. He suggested creditors should forgive 30 percent of what they are owed and allow a 20-year grace period for repaying the rest.
Police said more than 20,000 people gathered outside the nearby Panathenian stadium for the "Yes" rally. They waved Greek and European Union flags and chanted "Greece, Europe, Democracy." There were rallies organized by both sides in ten other Greek cities.
The question on the ballot paper reads "Must the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the Eurogroup of 25 June, 2015, and comprised of two parts which make up their joint proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled 'reforms for the completion of the current program and beyond' and the second 'Preliminary debt sustainability analysis.'"
Voters are asked to check one of two boxes, either "not approved/no" or "approved/yes."
Athens Mayor George Kaminis told supporters at the "yes" rally: "People don't even understand the question." This side of the debate has claimed support since capital controls were imposed this week limiting daily cash withdrawals from ATM machines to 60 euros.
Opinion polls published Friday showed the two sides in the EU nation of 11 million people evenly divided. An Alco institute poll found 44.8 percent intended to vote "Yes" and 43.4 percent "No." A Bloomberg survey for Greece's Macedonia University showed 43 percent would vote "No" and 42.5 percent "Yes."
Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Germany's Berenberg bank, said on Friday that "a Greek 'No' could turn into a tragedy for Greece but it would not be a significant threat for the eurozone."
jm/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)