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Greeks vote in bailout referendum

 
 

Greece1436079263Polls have opened in a crucial referendum that will decide whether or not Greeks choose to accept international creditors` proposals for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans needed to avoid default and a banking collapse.

Voting began at 7am local time (04:00 GMT) on Sunday, with opinion polls showing the nation of 11 million people evenly split between “Yes” and “No” vote. The first projected result is expected at 9pm local time.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged people to vote “No”, saying it would strengthen his left-wing government`s hand in talks with international creditors who are owed billions of euros.

On Friday, more than 25,000 people welcomed Tsipras at a rally in Athens where he sought to revive support for the “No” vote.

A rival rally of 22,000 “Yes” supporters shouted pro-European slogans and voiced fears of a so-called “Grexit” from the eurozone and a return to Greece`s former currency, the drachma, if Tsipras got his way.

After failing to reach a deal with its creditors last weekend on an extension of its bailout programme Greece`s ruling Syriza government closed the country`s banks and imposed capital controls until July 6. The cash-strapped nation defaulted on an IMF payment of $1.8bn on June 30.

There have been rallies in Dublin and Istanbul in support of the Greek government ahead of the key vote.

Hundreds of demonstrators also marched in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, to show their solidarity with Athens` efforts to fight the proposed austerity measures. Portugal, like Greece, had to ask for an international bailout in 2011 to avoid bankruptcy.

Source: Agencies

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