ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The latest news on Greece’s financial woes and its upcoming referendum on Sunday (all times local):
Greece’s prime minister is urging citizens to vote “no” in Sunday’s austerity referendum and shun those who threaten the country with economic ultimatums.
Alexis Tsipras told throngs of demonstrators at the main “no” rally in Athens’ central Syntagma Square Friday that the referendum is not a choice about whether or not to stay in Europe, but a decision about living “in Europe with dignity.”
He said Greeks wants Europe to return to its core values which it has sidelined for the sake of “dead-end” austerity programs.
Tsipras said Greece won’t abandon Europe “in the hands of those who want to drag her away from her democratic traditions.”
He said Greeks “have justice on our side and we will win,” urging voters to ignore scaremongers and to remain united no matter the outcome.
Police in Athens say about 25,000 people have gathered in the capital’s Syntagma Square for a rally supporting a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on whether to accept a new bailout deal.
Meanwhile, about 17,000 people gathered outside the nearby Panathenian stadium for the “yes” rally, police said.
Friday was the last day of campaigning before Sunday’s referendum on whether Greece should accept creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for bailout loans.
Brief clashes have broken out between a group of youths and police in the Greek capital’s Syntagma Square just before the start of the main “No” rally backed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government.
Greek police used pepper spray Friday evening to deter several dozen anti-establishment protesters from throwing rocks and smashing property in the big Athens square in front of parliament.
The ‘Yes’ side was holding its rally just 800 meters away in a different section of central Athens. Friday was the last day of campaigning before Sunday’s referendum on whether Greece should accept creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for bailout loans.
The leader of Greece’s conservative main opposition party says a “no” vote in Sunday’s austerity referendum would drastically weaken the country’s negotiating position with its creditors.
Antonis Samaras said Friday that all of Europe would perceive a “no” victory as a rejection of the euro currency itself — and that would result in Greek banks staying shuttered even longer, despite the government’s vow they will open Tuesday.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said earlier, however, that Sunday’s referendum was not a vote on whether Greece will remain in the 19-nation eurozone. Tsipras backs keeping the euro currency.
Samaras also rejected Tsipras’ claim that a deal with creditors could be hammered out within 48 hours after the referendum.
He called on Greeks to support a “yes” vote to keep Greece inside the eurozone.
In a rare move, 16 former armed forces leaders of Greece have signed a joint declaration calling on the Greek people to show “calm and national unity” ahead of Sunday’s referendum on whether to accept creditors’ demands for more austerity.
The letter said “Greece is at a highly critical moment in its history that will require difficult and inevitably painful decisions … All Greeks, united and above party political lines and divisions, must help with all means available to address this situation with calm and national unity.”
The letter was signed by three former chiefs of the armed forces, nine ex-army chiefs, two former heads of the navy and two former heads of the air force.
The Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, has rejected an appeal by two citizens asking for Greece’s critical referendum on austerity to be ruled unconstitutional. The vote will be held as planned on Sunday.
Court president Nikos Sakellariou said Friday “the referendum will proceed normally.”
The reasoning behind the decision was expected to be issued later in the day.
The two men had appealed to the court on the grounds that Greece’s constitution bars popular votes on fiscal issues. Greek voters are being asked whether to accept creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for bailout loans.
A new opinion poll shows a dead heat in Greece’s referendum campaign with just two days to go before Sunday’s vote on whether Greeks should accept more austerity in return for bailout loans.
The ALCO survey