Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday urged voters to ignore European scaremongering and “blackmail” and vote ‘No’ in this weekend’s referendum as polls showed support swinging behind the ‘Yes’ campaign.
Huge rival rallies are expected in central Athens late Friday to galvanise support for each side in Sunday’s plebiscite.
Many Greeks, who are struggling under capital controls that have limited daily ATM withdrawals to just 60 euros ($67), fear EU leaders’ warnings that a ‘No’ vote could mean Greece’s exit from the euro — a Grexit.
The sense of building crisis was heightened further by a eurozone emergency fund officially declaring Greece to be in default.
The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which provided funds to eurozone countries in difficulty, said however it won’t demand immediate repayment of its Greek loans worth 145 billion euros ($160 billion).
Tsipras insisted that his decision to stop debt negotiations last week and call the referendum “does not mean a break with Europe”.
He called on creditors to restructure Greek’s unsustainable 323-billion-euro debt mountain by forgiving 30% of the debt owed to them and allowing a 20-year grace period for repaying the rest.
Only a last-minute challenge to the legality of the ballot in Greece’s top administrative court, the Council of State, could have derailed it, but the court ruled to say it would not suspend it.
Confusion, however, is widespread over the very technical question posed in the referendum, compounding concerns over what the post-vote consequences might be.
The two latest polls published on Friday showed voter intentions were effectively tied.
An Alco institute poll found 44.8% of Greeks intend to vote ‘Yes’ and 43.4% are for ‘No’. A Bloomberg survey for Greece’s Macedonia University was equally split, showing 43% to vote ‘No’ and 42.5% ‘Yes’.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned that Greece’s negotiating position, far from being strengthened, would be “dramatically weakened” in the event of a ‘No’.
Even if the ‘Yes’ vote wins, there would still be “difficult” negotiations ahead, he added.
While this crisis goes on, Greece also looks likely to be unable to repay another 3.5 billion euros owed to the ECB on July 20.