Greek people decisively rejected the terms of an international bailout, the first results from a controversial debt referendum have shown as two-thirds of ballots were counted.
Figures published by the interior ministry showed 61% of those whose ballots had been counted voting “No”, against 39% voting “Yes”.
Greece’s governing Syriza party campaigned for a “No”, saying the bailout terms were humiliating.
The “Yes” campaign warned this could see Greece ejected from the eurozone.
Some European officials had also said that a “No” would be seen as an outright rejection of talks with creditors.
However, Greek government officials have insisted that a “No” vote would strengthen their hand and that they could rapidly strike a deal for fresh funding in resumed negotiations.
Greek banks will reopen by July 7, they say.
Reacting to the result, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called it “a big yes to a democratic Europe”.
Yanis Varoufakis said Greece would be “positive” in negotiations with its creditors.
Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s deputy foreign minister, told Star TV that two developments would allow Greece to pursue “a solution that is financially viable”.
“Firstly, the government now has a new popular mandate and the second is the latest [International Monetary Fund] report which says that the Greek debt is unsustainable.”
Greece had been locked in negotiations with its creditors for months when the Greek government unexpectedly called a referendum on the terms it was being offered.
Banks have been shut and capital controls in place since June 29, after the European Central Bank declined to give Greece more emergency funding.
Withdrawals at cash machines have been limited to €60 per day.
State Minister Nikos Pappas, a close ally of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, said it was “absolutely necessary” to restore liquidity to the banks now the referendum was over.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: “Now it is right to start trying for an agreement again. But there is no escape from the Greek labyrinth with a Europe that’s weak and isn’t growing.”
Belgium’s finance minister said the door remained open to restart talks with Greece “literally, within hours”.
Eurozone finance ministers could again discuss measures “that can put the Greek economy back on track and give the Greeks a perspective for the future,” he told the VRT network.
President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are scheduled to meet in Paris on July 6 to discuss the situation, the French president’s office said.
Greece’s latest bailout expired on June 30 and Greece missed a €1.6 billion payment to the IMF.
The European Commission – one of the “troika” of creditors along with the IMF and the European Central Bank – wanted Athens to raise taxes and slash welfare spending to meet its debt obligations.
Greece’s Syriza-led government, which was elected in January on an anti-austerity platform, said it had been presented with an “ultimatum”.
The Greek government’s opponents and some Greek voters had complained that the question on the ballot paper was unclear. EU officials said it applied to the terms of an offer that was no longer on the table.
The projected turnout in Sunday’s referendum was about 60%.
Greeks are voting in a controversial referendum on whether to accept the terms of an international bailout.
Polling stations opened at 07:00 local time, with the first results expected in the evening.
The government has urged a “No” vote, but opponents warn this could see Greece ejected from the eurozone.
Greeks appear evenly divided over the issue, according to opinion polls. Turnout is expected to be high, after a frenetic week of campaigning.
Leaders in the governing radical-left Syriza party have criticized the bailout terms as humiliating. They say rejecting the terms could give them more leverage in talks over Greece’s massive debt.
“No one can ignore the determination of a people taking its destiny in its own hands,” PM Alexis Tsipras said, after casting his ballot on July 5.
However, international creditors have warned that a “No” vote could choke off vital funding for Greek banks and lead to “Grexit – a chaotic departure from the common European currency. The “Yes” campaign has framed the vote as a referendum on Greek membership of the eurozone.
Supporters of both sides held rallies in Athens on July 3. Banks stayed shut because of capital controls imposed after the expiry of the current bailout program.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told local media on Saturday that the EU had “no legal grounds” to throw Greece out of the euro.
On the eve of the referendum, Yanis Varoufakis accused Athens’ creditors of trying to sow fear around the vote. He told Spain’s El Mundo newspaper: “Why did they force us to close the banks? To instil fear in people. And spreading fear is called terrorism.”
Yanis Varoufakis said that the banks in Greece would reopen on July 7 whatever the outcome and that PM Alexis Tsipras would still reach an agreement with creditors if the result was “No” in the referendum.
Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of Greece’s harshest critics, suggested that if Greece were to leave the eurozone, it might only be temporary.
“Whether with the euro or temporarily without it: only the Greeks can answer this question,” he told the German newspaper Bild.
“And it is clear that we will not leave the people in the lurch.”
The referendum question is: “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 program and beyond>> and the second <<Preliminary debt sustainability analysis>>.”
Voters must check one of two boxes – “not approved/no” or, below it, “approved/yes”.
Rival rallies have been held in the Greek capital ahead of a crucial debt referendum on July 5.
PM Alexis Tsipras was greeted with huge cheers by tens of thousands of Greeks when he told supporters to vote “No” to the terms of an international bailout.
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 program ran out on June 30. All week banks have been shut, with limits imposed on cash withdrawals.
Another war of words flared late on July 3 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 rumor”. The report quoted sources as saying banks were considering a “haircut” of 30% on deposits over €8,000.
Opinion polls on July 3 suggested Greece was evenly split over the vote – an Ipsos survey putting “Yes” supporters at 44% and “No” at 43%.
Opinion polls within 24 hours of the voting are banned, as are more campaign rallies.
Estimates of the crowds gathered in Athens on July 3 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, Alexis 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.
The prime minister said: “This is not a protest. It is a celebration to overcome fear and blackmail.”
Alexis 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.”
Only a few hundred meters away, supporters of a “Yes” vote said they believed Alexis Tsipras could not deliver on such a promise.
Athens Mayor George Kaminis told supporters at the rally that people did not even understand the question on the ballot paper.
He said: “We have been dragged into a pointless referendum that is dividing the people and hurting the country.”
Claims by Greek politicians that a “No” vote will strengthen their hand in bailout negotiations have been rebuffed by European leaders.
Both EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Jeroen Dijsselbloem – head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers – have insisted a “No” vote will weaken the Greeks’ position and that even a “Yes” vote will not mean a deal is easy to agree.
Several European officials have complained in strong terms about Greece’s abrupt decision to hold a referendum on the terms of a bailout offer they say is no longer on the table.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has made a defiant speech as cash withdrawal limits begin to bite for bank customers.
Alexis Tsipras promised Greeks their pensions and wages would be safe.
Earlier the prime minister offered new concessions to eurozone partners, accepting most conditions that were on the table before talks collapsed.
Germany says talks requested by Greece will not be possible until after a debt referendum called by Alexis Tsipras for July 5.
In his address on July 1, Alexis Tsipras thanked Greeks for their “calm” in the face of bank closures and said their salaries and pensions would “not be lost”.
He angrily denied he had a secret plan to take Greece out of the euro, calling those who accused him of this “liars”.
Greek banks did not open this week after the ECB froze their liquidity lifeline.
Withdrawals from cash machines are capped at just €60 a day and long queues have been forming outside banks.
However, up to 1,000 branches re-opened on July 1 to allow pensioners – many of whom do not use bank cards – a one-off weekly withdrawal of up to €120.
Many pensioners had waited outside banks from before dawn, only to be told to return on Thursday or Friday, the Associated Press reported.
Some pensioners were told their pensions had not yet been deposited, AP said.
Close to 300 pensioners marched on the Bank of Greece in Athens after being given only a small sum from banks in the morning instead of the entire €120.
The letter sent to creditors by PM Alexis Tsipras says he was prepared to accept a deal put forward last weekend, if a few changes were agreed.
European markets surged on the news Greece might be willing to accept a deal.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said no new bailout talks would be possible before Greece holds Sunday’s referendum.
As well as seeking further amendments to the creditors’ proposals, Alexis Tsipras’ latest offer is tied explicitly to agreement on a request for a third bailout lasting two years and amounting to €29.1 billion.
His application for a third bailout was accompanied by a request for debt restructuring that other eurozone countries would, at this stage, be unwilling to consider.
Two key meetings are to take place to discuss aid for Greece, after Athens missed the deadline for a €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) payment to the IMF on June 30.
Eurozone finance ministers were set to discuss Greece’s new proposal in a conference call.
The second meeting will see officials with the European Central Bank (ECB) deciding on whether to demand more collateral from Greek banks on emergency loans it has given them.
With the previous eurozone bailout expired, Greece no longer has access to billions of euros in funds.
Only three other countries are still in arrears to the IMF – Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe. Between them, they owe €1.6 billion, only marginally more than Greece.
Greece has failed to repay €1.6 billion loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hours after eurozone ministers refused to extend its bailout.
However, eurozone ministers say they will discuss a last-minute request from Greece for a new two-year bailout on July 1.
Greece is the first advanced country to fail to repay a loan to the IMF and is now formally in arrears.
There are fears that this could put Greece at risk of leaving the euro.
The IMF confirmed that Greece had failed to make the payment, shortly after 22:00 GMT on June 30.
“We have informed our Executive Board that Greece is now in arrears and can only receive IMF financing once the arrears are cleared,” said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice.
Gerry Rice confirmed the IMF had received a request from Greece to extend the payment deadline, which he said would go to the board “in due course”.
With the eurozone bailout expired, Greece no longer has access to billions of euros in funds and could not meet its IMF repayment.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has also frozen its liquidity lifeline to Greek banks. Meanwhile, ratings agencies have further downgraded the country’s debt.
Eurogroup chairman and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem earlier said it would be “crazy” to extend the Greek bailout beyond its June 30 deadline as Athens was refusing to accept the European proposals on the table.
Greece’s left-wing Syriza government, elected on an anti-austerity platform, has been in deadlock with its creditors for months over the terms of a third bailout.
Speaking after the conference call with other eurozone ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that a Greek request for a new €29.1 billion European aid program would be considered in a telephone conference on July 1.
According to new reports, Greece may submit new proposals on July 1 that rein in its spending
Greece’s request on June 30 asked for funds from Europe’s bailout fund – the European Stability Mechanism – as well as a restructuring of Greece’s public debt.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier said she had ruled out further negotiations until after July 5 referendum, which will ask Greeks if they want to accept the deal offered by their creditors.
The Greek government took the unilateral decision to hold a vote last weekend, angering eurozone ministers.
The question which will be put to Greek voters on July 5 will not be as simple as whether they want to stay in the euro or not.
Instead it asks Greeks to approve or reject the specific terms laid out by Greece’s creditors.
“Should the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the June 25 eurogroup and consisting of two parts, which form their single proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled <<Reforms for the completion of the Current Program and Beyond>> and the second <<Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis>>.
The two appendix documents – “Reforms for the completion of the current program and beyond” and “Preliminary debt sustainability analysis” – don’t sound much more easily digestible than the ballot.
There is still a question over when and how voters will be presented with those documents, and whether world-class economists will be on hand at polling stations to explain them.
As well as being a little bit dense, the Greek ballot also controversially puts the “No” option – favored by the Greek government – above the “Yes” option, leading some to accuse it of bias.