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Hours From Greek Bailout Vote, 2 Sides Evenly Divided

Thousands of people supporting a "no" vote on the country's referendum rally in Athens on Thursday.
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Barcroft Media/Landov
Thousands of people supporting a "no" vote on the country's referendum rally in Athens on Thursday.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET

Greece's prime minister has put his political clout behind the "no" camp in a referendum to decide whether the country should accept the terms of an international bailout. But the people appear to be evenly split on the issue, according to two new opinion polls.

One survey, conducted by the respected ALCO institute just 48 hours before the referendum that could decide Greece's economic fate and future in the eurozone, gives the "yes" camp 44.8 percent against 43.4 percent for the "no" side, according to Reuters.

But a second poll, conducted by Public Issue and published in the ruling party's newspaper, reports a 0.5-percentage-point lead for those opposed to the bailout.

Given the margin of error in the surveys, what seems clear is that the referendum could go either way when Greeks cast their ballots on Sunday.

The referendum was announced a week ago by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after his government failed to get terms it deemed acceptable from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. As a result, Athens missed a Tuesday deadline and defaulted on a payment it owed the IMF. The crisis triggered a virtual run on the banks that forced the country to declare an extended bank holiday and limit ATM withdrawals.

Tsipras on Friday reiterated his opposition to the deal, insisting that an International Monetary Fund analysis showing that his country's debt is unsustainable was "a great vindication" for him in pushing rejection of the international deal that offers no debt relief.

He has called the proposed bailout plan "blackmail and ultimatums."

But, as Joanna Kakissis reports for NPR from Athens, "European leaders are begging Greeks to vote 'yes.' A German newspaper ran a front-page editorial in Greek and German with the message 'stay with us.' "

Even so, those same leaders suggest that regardless the outcome, the vote is unlikely to resolve the impasse.

According to The Guardian:

"Europe's top official in charge of the euro said the question being put to the Greek people was 'neither factually nor legally correct'. Valdis Dombrovskis, a former prime minister of Latvia, but now the commissioner for the euro, told Die Welt newspaper that Sunday's vote would send a political signal to Europe.

" 'A yes will mean that they want to work closely with the other eurozone countries to find a solution. A no would make the differences even more evident and a solution more complicated.' "

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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