Saturday 3 December 2016

Greek finance minister's gamble - vows he will resign if 'Yes' vote wins

* Millions of Greeks hit the polls
* Ten million people registered to vote
* Voters turn out in 'solid numbers'
* Left-wing government urging 'No' to more austerity
* Voter describes 'economical war'

Published 05/07/2015 | 07:52

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that he will resign if Greeks vote 'yes' in Sunday's referendum on an aid-for-reforms package, reiterating comments he has made before.

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Asked if he would really resign if the outcome of the referendum was 'yes', he told Germany's Bild newspaper: "Absolutely."

A woman leaves a polling booth to cast her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman leaves a polling booth to cast her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Maps of Greece hang on the wall next to a voting booth in a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
The moon sets behind a Greek flag over an elementary school used as polling station in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
An elderly voter waits outside a polling station at an elementary school in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A voter enters a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A voting official prepares documents before opening the the polling station during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
People prepare to cast ballots during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A man casts his ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A man prepares to cast his ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015.REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A voter enters a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. Greece voted 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. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Ballot papers are seen on a table as a man leaves a polling booth before casting his ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A child casts her grandmother's ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman enters a voting station before casting her ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Voting officials are seen inside a polling station during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Athenians are seen inside polling booths at a school in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A man enters a polling station to cast his ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A Greek Orthodox priest exits a booth holding a ballot at a polling station in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A Greek Orthodox priest exits a booth holding a ballot at a polling station in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A man raises his arms as he leaves a polling booth before casting his ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A man leaves a polling booth to cast his ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman casts her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

"There will not be a majority for 'yes'," he added.

Varoufakis speaks as millions of Greeks have begun voting in this morning’s crucial referendum while the country’s future hangs in the balance.

Maps of Greece hang on the wall next to a voting booth in a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Maps of Greece hang on the wall next to a voting booth in a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Polling booths opened at 7am local time at the 19,000 polling stations around the country. They will remain open for 12 hours to allow the 10m registered to vote have their say in the vital referendum.

More than 108,000 new voters have registered to take part in this election, as Greeks remain transfixed by the ongoing crisis.

'Solid turnout'

Turnout in the referendum is on track to hit the 40pc required by law for the vote to be deemed legitimate.

A pensioner is helped by a bank manager after collapsing while waiting along with dozens of other pensioners outside a National Bank in Athens, Greece, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A pensioner is helped by a bank manager after collapsing while waiting along with dozens of other pensioners outside a National Bank in Athens, Greece, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Pensioners sit on the steps outside a National Bank branch in Athens, Greece, July 3, 2015.REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
A Greek flag flies atop the parliament building as people watch as demonstrators from the Greek Communist party gather during a rally supporting the no vote for the upcoming referendum in Athens, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A demonstrator walks along a road with leaflets reading 'no' scattered on the ground, following a demonstration supporting the no vote on the upcoming referendum, outside of the European Union office in central Athens, on Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A demonstrator, left, waves a flag reading "YES" as a supporter of the no vote reacts in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Demonstrators from the Greek Communist party gather during a rally supporting the no vote for the upcoming referendum in front of the parliament in Athens, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Demonstrators wave European Unions flag in support of the yes vote for the upcoming referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A security guard carries a box with cash into a branch of the National Bank of Greece Athens, Greece, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Demonstrators gather during a rally supporting the yes vote for the upcoming referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
An elderly man finds old clothes as he searches in a garbage bin in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Demonstrators burn a European Union flag during a rally supporting the no vote for the upcoming referendum outside European Union office in Athens, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The Athens News Agency say ballot boxes are being filled at a similar rate to January's general election when 65pc of the population voted.

This is the first time is almost four decades that the country has held a referendum. While Syriza claims the referendum will cost in the region of €20m, opposition parties have put the cost at up to €120m.

And banks in the country now down to their last €500m, Greek media is reporting that one of the main four banks is on the verge of collapse.

According to reports the Bank of Greece will ask the ECB to increase emergency liquidity to Greek banks tonight and to review the ATM withdrawal limit.

A woman enters a voting station before casting her ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A woman enters a voting station before casting her ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Reaction

Outside the station local man Jan Newman (72) broke down in tears as he spoke of the nightmare the Greek public had endured.

"We have people jumping from the balconies, others are eating from the garbage. I have seen difficult things in my life but this is an economical war and we can't survive it."

Read more: 'Athens, Athens, we're with you,' say protestors

An elderly voter waits outside a polling station at an elementary school in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
An elderly voter waits outside a polling station at an elementary school in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

He said he had voted No in hopes that it would have a greater impact on European leaders.

"Tsipras is our saviour, this is the only way," he added.

Hospital worker Elleana voted No saying she did so "because I am Greek."

"I work in the hospital and I see how bad things are. I acknowledge things are better in other European countries but I have hopes for my country. The roots of Europe is Greece."

Many older voters who came out early to stations spoke no English but they were still eager to have their voices heard and their message was clear - Oxi.

George Panagoylias dressed in traditional Greek costume as he voted No, eager to show his pride in a country which has been bruised and battered by the crisis.

Read more: Inside track - Safe havens for cash as Greek crisis rages

Dentist Nikolaos Argyropoulos, who has businesses in both Athens and Thessalonika said he hoped the country would make the right decision.

“If this instability continues until September October there will be blood on the streets. Now it is summer and people are more relaxed but as it gets colder and they need to use heat things will change,” he said.

Calling for a Yes vote, Mr Argyropoulos said the future of the country depended on it, adding: “We are Greeks, we love tragedy.”

As voters made their decision, tempers flared in some areas. Outside Kipseli two men, both of whom had worked for several decades rowed bitterly about the others choice.

Michael Pantazopoulos (55) a naval architect accused Tsipras of splitting the nation in two.

Fifty-year-old  teacher Moustakoufis Stelios disagreed. "No it is not Tsipras it is our beliefs that split us."

Arguing over the role of the EU in the crisis, Mr Pantazopoulos ended the confrontation with the warning: "The EU is not responsible for this. This is our own problem and if we don't solve it it will be a catastrophe."

In Hallandri, a northern suburb of Athens which has been badly hit by the recession, booths for both the Yes and No campaigns stood just yards apart. Both attracting significant crowds.

Once an urban area of upper and middle class families, Hallandri has suffered badly, with a third of businesses forced to close.

Read more: Greece: the good, the bad and the downright ugly

Stelios Foteinopoulos, European Policy Director for Syriza said he believed the party would secure a No vote in the area.

“Traditionally we would not have support here but that has changed. Syriza has gone from 7-8pc support just a few years ago to almost 40pc now. The middle class here has dropped down, there is a big unemployment rate and a lot of youth trying to find its place,” he said.

He said that nationwide he expected the vote to be close.

“It is head to head at the moment. We can see from the streets there is a strong No vote in the country. However, there are a lot of Yes voters who would not have a culture of demonstrating but they will vote.

"It is too close to know,” he added.

Read more: TD Paul Murphy has 'gross' encounter with local Greek wildlife

Appeal

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos has appealed to the nation to remain united, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s referendum.

He said this day "belongs to the citizen alone."

Urging each voter to cast their ballot in accordance with their conscience and in the best interests of the country, he said: "I add only this, the historically self-evident: regardless of the outcome of the referendum, we have an obligation to tread the difficult path of tomorrow with absolute unity.

"This is what our forebears did at crucial times and this is our obligation today. We proceed, therefore, all together.”

Also voting was leader of the opposition New Democracy party Antonis Samaras.

He urged a Yes vote for Greece and for Europe.

Read more: A No vote would not be the end of problems for Syriza and Tsipras

Tsipras

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras cast his vote in Kipseli, the suburb where he grew up, telling supporters he wanted Greece to stay in the European Union to work and prosper as an equal member.

To rapturous cheers and applause from hundreds of supporters Mr Tsipras said the Greek people had a choice. He said while many can reject a government's will nobody can reject the will of the people.

"We have opened a path for European nations to follow, today democracy overcomes fear," he added.

In the middle class area, the vast majority of people voted No, insisting it was the only answer for Greece's growing woes. If any of the locals were voting Yes, they remained quiet about the fact as the tide of Oxi (no) supporters took over.

Read more: The human cost: ‘We’d like more children... it is out of the question now’

As the country's leader arrived at around 10.30am, the school surged with supporters chanting Oxi while he made his way upstairs to vote.

Downstairs the world's media awaited his return. From a platform of wooden pallets the charismatic leader addressed the crowd briefly saying today was a celebration of democracy for Greece and Europe.

The polls are set to close at 5pm this evening, Irish time.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Press Association

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