′No′ isn′t Greece′s final answer | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.07.2015
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Europe

'No' isn't Greece's final answer

Following Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' resignation, Greece wants a fresh start to negotiations with creditors. Yet the positions remain deeply entrenched, DW's Jannis Papadimitriou reports from Athens.

Within two hours of polling stations closing, the evening had already run its course. At that point, early projections by the Athens interior ministry indicated that the "no" camp had already captured an insurmountable 61 percent of the vote, and had garnered the majority of votes in almost every voting precinct in Greece.

"No" supporters partied in the streets of central Athens into the early morning after the vote's results were made public. Although opinion polls in the days preceding the vote had all pointed towards a neck-and-neck race, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who called the referendum on further austerity proposals, now appears strengthened by the clear result.

The minimum requirement of 40 percent voter participation was also clearly fulfilled, with 65 percent of Greeks voting. "Any doubt about the legality of the referendum was clearly refuted by the large numbers of citizens who participated," Nikos Filis, speaker for the governing leftist Syriza party, said in an interview.

The reason for such statements? A number of constitutional experts, and not least, the Council of Europe, openly questioned the legality of the Greek referendum after it was announced - especially due to the unclear and overly complex formulation of the referendum's question, as well as the unusually short period of time allotted to stage the vote, and thus to organize electoral campaigns.

Following the "no" camp's clear victory, Athens media outlets have increasingly speculated about an impending "Grexit" - or Greek departure from the eurozone. "Agreement, or Grexit," was how the economically liberal "Kathimerini" posed the question. "Reform, or Grexit" blazoned the front page of the paper "Ta Nea." And an altogether different take was put forth by "Avgi," the party newspaper of the Greek left: "61 percent say 'no' to austerity."

'Our people can persevere'

Despite intense reaction around the EU, the Tsipras government does not see the referendum's result as an end, but rather as a new beginning for negotiations with creditors. "We are working to arrive at an agreement. Our people have shown that they can persevere," explained Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis in a TV interview Sunday evening.

He added: "The people of Greece have endured for an entire week, and they'll certainly be able to hold out for a couple more days" - a clear reference to the government-ordered closure of banks beginning on Monday, June 29. The closings will likely have to be extended due to a lack of liquidity throughout the country. The European Central Bank (ECB) has not yet announced whether it will give Greek banks more emergency funding.

However, economist Kostas Stoupas believes that the Greek government has maneuvered itself into a corner, and will be confronted with numerous uncontrollable consequences stemming from the closing of banks in the coming weeks and months. From his point of view, those consequences will be delayed payments for civil servants, as well as shortages of food, medicine and fuel. Stoupas is certain that "the 'no' victory in the referendum has made the government's negotiating position more difficult."

Back to the negotiating table?

Athens' government sees things differently - as Tsipras explained late Sunday evening in a televised address, the referendum's result is not a mandate for breaking with creditors. Sustainable solutions certainly exist, however, one has to talk with creditors about the restructuring of Greek debt.

Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said "the substantial part of the negotiations" would begin after the referendum. Tsipras had long promised there would be an agreement with creditors "within 48 hours of the referendum."

In the end, the surprisingly devastating loss of the "yes" camp will also have consequences for the opposition. The first of these was the resignation of conservative opposition leader and former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on July 6, just prior to a crisis meeting of all party leaders with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

According to media reports, former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis requested Samaras' immediate resignation. Provisional party leader will be former Parliamentary Speaker Vangelis Meimarakis, who called on Tsipras to make good on his promise to deliver an "agreement within 48 hours of the referendum."

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