Athens, July 4 (IANS) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged Greek people to reject the “creditors’ ultimatum” in the upcoming referendum over a debt deal draft, as the NO camp and the pro-euro camp held their final mass demonstrations in the centre of Athens.
“I call on you to say again a big and proud NO to ultimatum,” the Leftist leader said, addressing the rally in favour of the NO that was staged in front of the parliament, Xinhua reported.
The premier rejected once again claims that NO would lead Greece closer to bankruptcy and a possible Grexit.
“On Sunday we do not only decide to stay in Europe, we decide to stay as equals among equals in Europe,” he stressed.
As Greeks are evenly divided these days between YES and NO, according to all opinion surveys, Tsipras underlined that irrespective of Sunday’s results, as of Monday Greek people united should say NO to polarization and division and move forward to rebuild the country that has suffered hard after six years of recession and austerity.
The Greek leader who was elected in January on an anti-austerity and anti-bailout agenda was cheered by a large crowd that was waiving Greek flags and raised banners with slogans such as “rift now, not a step back.”
Artists who earlier this week co-signed declarations against the “lenders’ blackmail” performed during the pro-government demonstration.
At the same time, thousands of supporters of the YES who feared that the government’s stance put at risk Greece’s stay in the euro zone, staged a similar rally in front of the Panathinaikon stadium approximately a kilometer away.
“Yes to Greece, Yes to Euro” they chanted, also waving Greek flags, as the Mayor of the City of Athens Yorgos Kaminis, academics, economists, representatives of the business world, artists and farmers addressed the gathering.
With tensions running high in the country this week, police had taken stringent security measures. Both rallies ended peacefully.
Only briefly a group of about 100 hooded anarchists clashed with police near Syntagma square at the sidelines of the pro-NO rally. The anti-establishment protesters pelted rocks at anti-riot forces who responded by firing gas to disperse them. No injuries were reported.
According to estimates the demonstration in favour of No attracted about 35,000 protestors, while the pro Yes rally about 25,000 people.
Greek voters are heading to the ballots on Sunday with banks closed and capital controls introduced since Monday.
During the past weekend the European Central Bank freesed the emergency liquidity assistance to Greece’s banking sector after Tsipras’ surprise call for a referendum, as five months of negotiations with creditors over the next set of reforms in return of further vital financing had reached a deadlock.
Unable to repay a loan installment to the International Monetary Fund on June 30 Greece became the first developed nation in arrears status for the Fund. From July 1 for first time in five years Greece is also left without a bailout.
The government has admitted that ATMs will run out of cash by Tuesday, however, Tsipras assured that regardless of the outcome of July 5 referendum Greece will be able to sign a better deal and banks will reopen normally the next day.