Tears on Greek island as voters despair

Tears on Greek island as voters despair
A woman holds the flag of Greece at the 'Greek solidarity festival' in Trafalgar Square, London, Britain, July 4, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

POROS, Greece- The clear turquoise waters around Greece's Poros island usually buoy the spirits of 63-year old resident Nadia, but today she can do little but weep as she contemplates her troubled country's future.

"I voted 'No'," she said with eyes red from crying after casting her ballot in Greece's bailout referendum.

"But we don't know what deal we're voting for because there's no longer a deal on the table." People across Greece headed to the polls Sunday to vote in a plebiscite on whether the country should accept austerity measures demanded by its international creditors in exchange for bailout funds.

But, as many have remarked, the question posed by the government refers to a deal to extend a previous bailout which ended Tuesday after talks between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the creditors collapsed.

"We vote 'No' but we're afraid. But when we vote 'Yes' we're afraid too. On both sides we're afraid," she said, summing up a current of confusion and fear running through Greece as it heads to the polls.

"I've cried all day," she added, wiping her eyes as she left the polling station, set up in a local school.

On the stingray-shaped island, one hour by ferry from the capital city of Athens and a popular weekend destination for both Greeks and tourists, people gathered in groups to debate their fate.

Impassioned cases were put forward for both the 'No' and 'Yes' vote, with arguments raging even within members of the same family as to whether the country risks crashing out of the eurozone.

'Ready to take risk'

The most worrying rumour doing the rounds, flitting from harbour-front cafes to hillside restaurants, is that salaries in the near-insolvent country are going to be cut by 50 percent whichever side triumphs.

Johanna, a 28-year old data manager who works in Athens but returned to her hometown for the vote, stood deep in thought in the classroom with its pupil-sized tables and chairs and makeshift booths.

"I don't know yet whether I'm going to vote 'Yes' or 'No'. There is no deal on the table, I'm not sure what this referendum's about," she said.

Supermarket checkout girl Nadia, 40, agreed: "I don't know what to vote. I'd vote 'No' with my heart, 'Yes' with my head," touching her fingers first to her heart then, with a sigh, to her temple.

All is quiet in the shade of the island's old pine forest, but down in the town there's a constant stream of chatter as families prepare to cast a ballot which some fear could see a return to the drachma.

"I'm voting 'Yes'," said 35-year old economist Katerina, holding her baby in her arms and explaining that her main problem was radical left-wing Tsipras, who is "incapable of managing anything" and had to go.

The prime minister, who called the rushed referendum at the end of last week, has staked his future on the vote, and many in the 'Yes' camp are hoping he will be forced to resign.

But trendy thirty-somethings Vangelis and Vassilis, sporting neon shorts and stubble, said they were voting 'No' because "the risk of leaving the euro is very low. And we're ready to take that risk." "The elderly tend to vote 'Yes' because they are afraid. The young are not," Vangelis said.

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