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Saturday 4th
posted by James Tweedie in World

Yes and No sides stage rallies as voting looms

THE GREEK bailout referendum campaign ended last night with mass rallies, as polls showed the two sides neck and neck.

Greeks will vote tomorrow on whether to accept the draconian terms of the EU troika’s package to rescue the nation’s banking system.

The troika, comprising the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission have demanded a continuation of the disastrous austerity policies that have wrecked the Greek economy and mired the country in ever greater debt since 2010.

Last week, EU leaders broke off negotiations with Greece’s Syriza government — elected in January on an anti-austerity platform — after it opted to let the people decide.

The troika rejected pleas for a week’s grace on a $1.6 billion (£1 billion) debt repayment, which should have been made by June 30, until the result of the plebiscite was in.

The Yes and No camps held rallies in central Athens, a mere 800 yards apart.

Syriza Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke at the No rally in the capital’s main Syntagma Square outside Parliament, while Yes supporters gathered at the nearby Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games were staged in 1896.

Polls showed that the outcome was to close to call. According to one, published in the To Ethnos newspaper, 41.5 per cent would vote Yes and 40.2 per cent No.

The survey also found that an overwhelming majority — 74 per cent — want to keep the euro, as opposed to 15 per cent who want a return to the drachma.

Syriza says a No vote would not mean an exit from the euro or the EU, but pro-austerity opposition parties and EU leaders claim otherwise.

Communist Party of Greece general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumpas told voters to abstain at a rally on Thursday and called for Greece to leave the EU.

The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, rejected a motion yesterday by two private citizens claiming that a referendum on economic policy is unconstitutional.

Another group had filed a counter-motion, saying that the constitution stipulates that popular votes can be held on “crucial national matters.”