Greek citizens have overwhelmingly voted ‘’no’’ on Sunday to reject bailout propositions from its international lenders, showing defiance that may split Europe.
With over 90 percent of votes counted, official figures show that 61 percent of Greeks have dismissed the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout propositions and harsh austerity measures in a nation-wide referendum.
The polls, which opened at 7:00 am local time (4:00 GMT) closed at 7:00 pm.
Nearly 10 million eligible citizens were registered to vote at 4,800 polling stations staged across the country, latest reports show a 70 percent voter turnout.
For millions of Greeks, the outcome is a furious response to the creditors who imposed harsh austerity measures that has led to Greece receiving two massive bailouts worth over 240 billion euros and the current situation pointing to another economic contraction. Unemployment has doubled since 2009 and sits at 25.6 percent, with pensions and benefits nearly halved over the course of the last four years.
The Greek stock exchange and banks remain shut down till at least on Monday and ATM withdrawals are limited to 60 euros a day.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has condemned the price Greece has paid for creditor loans, referring to them as a form of ‘‘blackmail’’ and a national ‘‘humiliation’’
Following the results, hundreds of Greeks are in central Syntagma celebrating in front of the parliament, leaving behind a tough week but an ambiguous future.
Officials from the Greek government, who have been in favour of a ‘No’ vote, said an overwhelming majority against the bailout would give Greece an upper hand and immediately expressing their interest to initiate talks with the international creditors.
"I believe there is no Greek today who is not proud, because regardless of what he voted he showed that this country above all respects democracy," Labour Minister Panos Skourletis said.
"The government now has a strong mandate, a strong negotiating card, to bring a deal which will open new ways," Skourletis added.
Eurozone officials have dismissed the prospects of a swift transition back to talks. One official said, the eurozone ministers did not schedule an emergency meeting because they "would not know what to discuss."
Tsipras has reassured the eurozone ministers that the referendum vote was not a decision on whether Greece stays in the euro, adding that the result reflects the mandate of Greek citizens and it would lead them to pursue a viable solution rather than an altercation with Europe.
"With the difficult circumstances prevailing today you made a very brave choice," Tsipras said in a televised address to Greeks.
"I'm fully aware the mandate you gave me is not one of a rupture with Europe but a mandate to strengthen our negotiating position to seek a viable solution."
The result delivers a massive blow to the European Union’s common currency zone and grand Euro project that was established 15 years ago, with possibilities of the a member of the eurozone dropping out for the first time.
Greece became the first developed nation to default on its international debt, failing to pay its $1.8 billion debt to the IMF as its bailout program expired at 01:00 am local time on last Monday.