Austerity Referendum called for 5th July
Following months of negotiations between the left-wing Syriza led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and their international creditors the Prime Minister has decided to call a referendum for Sunday 5th July.
Greek voters will be asked if they agree to the proposed austerity plan sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB) on 25th June. The ballot paper will have a straight yes or no option. If the No camp prevails and the government accepts the decision of the referendum then the chances of a Greek exit from the Eurozone looks inevitable.
The referendum and the wording of the referendum ballot paper still have to be approved by the Hellenic Parliament with a total of 151 votes needed. Greek voters living abroad will not be able to vote unless they attend in person at a Greek polling station. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of the main opposition centre-right New Democracy condemned the government’s actions which have brought Greece to this point. He pointed out that the referendum was presenting people with a choice of “an unacceptable agreement or a Euro exit.” The former Prime Minister said that Greek voters were now facing a vote to say “yes” or “no” to Europe.
Opponents of the government are now likely to condemn the Prime Minister for abandoning his responsibilities by going for a referendum. Syriza is not one coherent party but an alliance of around 13 parties which came together in 2004. Prior to the announcement of a referendum the Prime Minister had been facing splits in his party and parliamentary caucus and the referendum next weekend is unlikely to mend those splits.
If the people vote for austerity then Syriza will be breaking its core manifesto promises and it is likely that some Syriza parliamentarians will leave the party. If the people vote to reject the austerity measures then a so called Grexit (Greek Exit) and possibly the departure of Greece from the European Union are not impossible. That will mean a default and economic turmoil within the country as well as the international community. There is no evidence that the Syriza government has the competency to handle the economic fallout of a Grexit.
The announcement made by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as reported on the Prime Minister’s website is as follows:
“Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ address concerning the referendum to be held on the 5th of July
June 27, 2015 | categories : Prime Minister, Speeches
“ Now is the time for the leading European powers to rise to the occasion and take initiative to definitively end the Greek debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries as well, by threatening the very future of European integration“
For the last six months, the Greek government has been waging a battle under conditions of unprecedented economic asphyxiation, in order to implement your mandate, that of January 25th.
The mandate to negotiate with our partners to bring about an end austerity, and for prosperity and social justice to return to our country once more.
For a sustainable agreement that will respect democracy, as well as European rules, and which will lead to a definitive exit from the crisis.
During the negotiations, we were repeatedly asked to implement memoranda policies agreed to by the previous governments, despite the fact that the memoranda were unequivocally condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections.
We never considered giving in—not even for a moment. Of betraying your trust.
Following five months of tough negotiations, our partners submitted a proposal-ultimatum at the Eurogroup meeting, taking aim at Greek democracy and the Greek people.
An ultimatum that contravenes Europe’s founding principles and values. The values of our common European project.
The Greek government was asked to accept a proposal that will add new unbearable weight to the shoulders of the Greek people, and that will undermine the recovery of the Greek economy and society–not only by fueling uncertainty, but also by further exacerbating social inequalities.
The institutions’ proposal includes measures that will further deregulate the labor market, pension cuts, and further reductions in public sector wages–as well as an increase in VAT on food, restaurants and tourism, while eliminating the tax breaks of the Greek islands.
These proposals–which directly violate the European social acquis and the fundamental rights to work, equality and dignity–prove that certain partners and members of the institutions are not interested in reaching a viable and beneficial agreement for all parties, but rather the humiliation of the Greek people.
These proposals mainly illustrate the IMF’s insistence on harsh and punitive austerity measures. Now is the time for the leading European powers to rise to the occasion and take initiative to definitively end the Greek debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries as well, by threatening the very future of European integration.
We are facing a historic responsibility to not let the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people be in vain, and to strengthen democracy and our national sovereignty—and this responsibility weighs upon us.
Our responsibility for our country’s future.
This responsibility obliges us to respond to the ultimatum based on the sovereign will of the Greek people.
Earlier this evening, the Cabinet was convened and I proposed holding a referendum, so that the Greek people can decide.
My proposal was unanimously accepted.
Tomorrow, the Parliament will hold an extraordinary meeting to ratify the Cabinet’s proposal for a referendum to take place next Sunday, on July 5th. The question on the ballot will be whether the institutions’ proposal should be accepted or rejected.
I have already informed the French President, the German Chancellor, and the ECB’s president of my decision, while tomorrow I will ask for a short extension of the program -in writing- from the leaders of the EU and the institutions, so that the Greek people can decide free of pressure and blackmail, as stipulated by our country’s Constitution and Europe’s democratic tradition.
I call on you to decide –with sovereignty and dignity as Greek history demands–whether we should accept the extortionate ultimatum that calls for strict and humiliating austerity without end, and without the prospect of ever standing on our own two feet, socially and financially.
We should respond to authoritarianism and harsh austerity with democracy–calmly and decisively.
Greece, the birthplace of democracy, should send a resounding democratic message to the European and global community.
And I personally commit that I will respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever it may be.
I am absolutely confident that your choice will honor our country’s history and will send a message of dignity worldwide.
In these critical times, we all have to remember that Europe is the common home of all of its peoples.
That in Europe there are no owners and guests.
Greece is, and will remain, an integral part of Europe, and Europe an integral part of Greece.
But a Europe without democracy will be a Europe without an identity and without a compass.
I call on all of you to act with national unity and composure, and to make a worthy decision.
For us, for our future generations, for Greek history.
For our country’s sovereignty and dignity.”