Tens of thousands of Greeks took to streets of Athens to celebrate last night. The resounding “no” vote given against the latest deal offered by creditors gives Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras a chance to take his hard-line approach back to the table with a democratic mandate.
Yet his aggressive stance has not met with success so far – and despite optimism last night, the vote has left schisms among many Greeks, who now face growing economic turmoil as Tsipras looks to restart negotiations.
“I know best friends who don’t talk to each other,” Eleni Thanopoulou, one of the lucky few young Athenians in employment, tells City A.M..
“There are worse days ahead of us no matter if yes or no win, and we need to be united to get through it.”
Another young Athenian, preferring not to be named, said: “Tsipras has literally divided people into two camps. It’s very sad.”
Thankfully, Athens’ streets were relatively peaceful yesterday as the country’s divided population went to the polls.
“I hope tomorrow the same will be true,” Thanopoulou adds.
Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has promised to use the “no” vote as a negotiating tool, to try to get a deal within 48 hours of the referendum. But negotiations have already gone on for over four months with major divisions still existing.
Added to that, the batch of reforms being voted on were an extension of an existing bailout. This deal is no longer on the table as that bailout expired at the end of June.
Greece faces plunging further into the abyss while these new negotiations take place.
“I’m shocked there are still people who believe him [Varoufakis] and that’s why I’m very scared,” the unnamed Athenian said.
With society firmly divided, growing economic turmoil is likely to fuel further anger and frustration.
Businesses risk falling short of basic goods within weeks, while consumers can only withdraw €60 a day from cash machines.
Even that could be cut further.
Most shops were open last week, and supermarkets had full shelves despite many Greeks opting to stock up on necessities.
But Greece has been excluded from the Eurozone’s payments system, the so-called Target2 system. That means businesses are finding it near-impossible to import goods.
Hospitals are running out of medical supplies, shops could eventually run out of products and livestock face starvation without access to feed that comes mainly from the Netherlands.
The tourist industry is also being hit by fears over shortages.
Opposition MP Manos Konsolas claims that hotels have 50,000 fewer reservations on a daily basis. It comes at the worst possible time for the Greek tourism industry, a major source of income for the country.
Operations have also stalled for many manufacturers who cannot bring in raw materials.
Yet remarkably, Greek retailers did well last week despite the cash machine withdrawal cap and worsening economic conditions.
The fear of having their savings taken and used to recapitalise the banks, as happened in Cyprus, has encouraged many Greeks to deplete their savings.
“My friend told me ‘if they are going to take 30 per cent of my money I’ll just spend it all now before they do’,” Thanopoulou said.