Monday 21 May 2018

Greece crisis: Bailout referendum on knife-edge as public opinion split down the middle

For Mr Tsipras, if voters back a bailout plan that he has scorned, his government is likely to fall
For Mr Tsipras, if voters back a bailout plan that he has scorned, his government is likely to fall

A new opinion poll on Greece's bailout referendum pointed to a closely balanced result in the vote that could decide the country's future in Europe.

The poll, conducted by the ALCO polling institute and published in the Ethnos newspaper today, reflected a sharp swing from a previous opinion poll that showed the No vote backed by the left-wing government strongly ahead.

The new poll gave a slight lead for the Yes vote in favor of the bailout at 44.8pc against 43.4pc for the No vote. 11.8pc were undecided.

Previously, the only full survey to be released since the referendum was announced showed the "No" vote ahead, but falling sharply after the announcement that banks would be shut.

The latest poll was published a day after the International Monetary Fund delivered a stark warning of the huge financial hole facing Greece.

The IMF, part of the lenders' "troika" behind successive international bailouts, said Greece needed an extra €50bn over the next three years, including €36bn from its European partners, to stay afloat. It also needed significant debt relief.

The assessment, in a preliminary draft of the IMF's latest debt sustainability report, underlines the scale of the problems facing Athens, whatever the result of Sunday's referendum on the bailout offered by creditors last month.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' rejection of what he terms the "blackmail" of EU and IMF creditors demanding spending cuts and tax hikes has so angered Greece's partners that there is no hope of reconciliation before Sunday.

With banks closed for a fourth day on Thursday and capital controls in place, the future of the left-wing government hangs on the result, given the angry mood of voters in Greece, torn between resentment of the lenders and scorn for their own politicians.

On Sunday it will fall to the Greek people to decide an issue that their government was unable to settle in months of acrimonious negotiations with their European partners.

Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, remain convinced Athens can negotiate better terms, including debt relief, if voters reject the conditions on offer. But both have signaled they will quit if voters choose the bailout.

"I want to believe that these problems won't last long," Tsipras said on Thursday of the bank closures. "The banks will open when there is a deal," he said in a television interview, predicting it would come within 48 hours of the referendum.


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