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Greece debt crisis: Mass rival rallies over bailout vote

Tens of thousands of Greeks have attended rival rallies in Athens ahead of a crucial referendum on Sunday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was greeted with huge cheers when he told supporters to vote “No” to the terms of an international bailout.

But those attending another huge rally nearby warned a “No” vote would see Greece ejected from the eurozone.

A Greek court earlier rejected a challenge to the legality of the referendum and it will go ahead.

Greece’s current bailout programme ran out on Tuesday. All week banks have been shut, with limits imposed on cash withdrawals.

The BBC’s Chris Morris in Athens says this has become a choice about whether to stay in the eurozone. With so much at stake, he says, the rhetoric is getting nasty – no-one can even be sure whether Greek banks will be able to reopen next week as the government has promised.

Another war of words flared late on Friday when Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis dismissed a Financial Times report that Greece was preparing contingency plans for a possible “bail-in” of bank deposits as a “malicious rumour”. The report quoted sources as saying banks were considering a “haircut” of 30% on deposits over €8,000.

Opinion polls on Friday suggested the country was evenly split over the vote – an Ipsos survey putting “Yes” supporters at 44% and “No” at 43%.

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Opinion polls within 24 hours of the voting are banned, as are more campaign rallies.


Estimates of the crowds gathered in Athens on Friday ranged from 25,000 to 50,000, with police and observers agreeing that the crowds at the “No” rally were bigger.

Rallies for both camps were held in 10 other Greek cities.


In his speech on Friday night, Mr Tsipras reiterated the themes of almost daily addresses over the past week – the need for Greece to preserve its dignity and “say a proud ‘No’ to [European] ultimatums” to sign up to fresh austerity.

He said: “This is not a protest. It is a celebration to overcome fear and blackmail.”

Mr Tsipras urged Greeks to “decide to live in dignity in Europe”.

He denied a “Yes” vote would mean leaving Europe, saying: “We are not going to allow them to destroy Europe.”

But only a few hundred metres away, supporters of a “Yes” vote said they believed Mr Tsipras could not deliver on such a promise.

Nikos, a doctor, told AFP: “They cannot pretend any longer that it’s not about leaving the euro… and outside the euro lies only misery.”

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Ballot paper question

“Must the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the Eurogroup of 25 June, 2015, and comprised of two parts which make up their joint proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled “reforms for the completion of the current programme and beyond” and the second “Preliminary debt sustainability analysis”.

Voters must check one of two boxes – “not approved/no” or, below it, “approved/yes”


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