Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis sought to appear upbeat on Thursday as campaigning got under way ahead of Sunday’s referendum on proposals by Greece’s creditors, with the premier saying he expected a deal with lenders within 48 hours of a “no” vote.
In an interview on ANT1 television channel on Thursday, Tsipras said he would travel to Brussels to seal a deal if Greeks vote against creditors’ proposals. In the event that they support the lenders’ package, he said he would “put in motion procedures foreseen by the Constitution,” a vague phrase that covered several eventualities including his resignation to exploratory talks for a unity government.
As upheaval with the country’s banks continued, on the fourth day of capital controls, Tsipras said the closure “will not last long.”
Earlier in the day, in an interview with Bloomberg News, Varoufakis expressed his conviction that the “no” vote would prevail on Sunday, adding that “we desperately want to stay in the euro,” in an apparent bid to counter the insistence from the “yes” camp that a “no” vote is a threat to Greece’s future in the single currency. Varoufakis said he would quit if the “yes” vote prevails. “Maybe we’ll change the configuration of the government because some of us will not be able to stomach it,” he said. And he added that “I prefer to cut off my right arm,” rather than sign a deal without debt relief.
Not much later in the day, the International Monetary Fund released a report which underlined the need for relief of Greece’s “unsustainable” debt and 50 billion euros in funding.
Commenting, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said the report “fully vindicated the Greek government, both as regards its opinion on the unsustainability of the Greek debt and as regards its insistence that any new agreement with creditors must definitely include a debt restructuring or haircut.” “Beyond the IMF’s well-known ideological fixation of recessionary, neoliberal policies, the report constitutes an admission to the failure of the memorandum,” he said. “An admission that is not made by an opponent [of the memorandum] but one of the main forces behind it,” he added.
As the government sought to defend its record ahead of the referendum, the “yes” camp was bolstered by an increasing number of opposition politicians, notably former conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. In a rare statement, delivered as a televised address, Karamanlis said those voting “no” in the belief that it will strengthen Greece are making a “grave mistake.” A “no” victory would be seen by everyone as “a choice to leave the heart of Europe” and would be a step toward Grexit, he said.
Meanwhile a statement by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos prompted angry reactions as it harked back to darker times in Greece’s modern history. During a visit by Tsipras to the Defense Ministry, Kammenos said the armed forces “safeguard domestic stability.” New Democracy’s shadow defense minister Costas Tasoulas slammed Tsipras for not sacking Kammenos on the spot, describing the premier as “beleaguered.”