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As Greece Stares Down Its Money Troubles, A Decisive Vote Looms


Greeks will vote in a referendum tomorrow that's unsettling both Greeks and the rest of Europe. The Greek government says it's a vote on austerity where the Greeks will agree to more in exchange for more bailout loans to keep their country solvent. European leaders, on the other hand, are seeing it as a vote on the eurozone and whether Greeks want to remain part of it. Joanna Kakissis joins us now from Athens. Joanna, how are things now in Athens? What have you been seeing on the streets and in the media?

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Well, you know, people are remarkably calm considering the fact that Greek banks have been closed for a week - for more than a week now. They've been lining up calmly at ATM lines and, you know, getting out their 60 Euros per day - that's just under $70 per day - and sort of hoping for the best. The Greek media have really focused on those ATM lines, you know, showing sort of the older people really getting tired waiting there for the money. But from what I've seen, people just are trying to stay as calm as possible. Greeks have been through a lot in the last five years, and they've seen, you know, doom and gloom warnings before. And so they're just trying to see where this goes and where - what's going to happen in the next few days, especially after the referendum. The big problem appears psychological. I mean, essentially, one side is saying if you vote yes, you're essentially not Greek enough. And the other side is saying if you vote no, you're not European enough.

RATH: So walk us through what's going to happen tomorrow.

KAKISSIS: Well, polls open at 7 a.m., and they close at 7 p.m. That's Greek time. But we may not know anything until around midnight. Public opinion polls released on Friday show that the vote will likely be close. That doesn't mean that a clear result will actually clear anything up after all this. A yes vote would please Europe, but it might mean that the government resigns - the Greek government resigns, and that would force new elections, you know, a lot more turmoil. And no would please the government, but it would make it much harder to return to the negotiating table because, you know, the Greek government is comprised of leftists and right-wing nationalists, who have really vilified European leaders.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused them of blackmail. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has called them terrorists. I saw a campaign poster for the No Movement - that's, you know, voting against austerity and against European leaders' proposals. I saw this campaign poster that portrayed German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as an ogre who drinks Greek blood. So I don't see how they will all be able to sit at the same negotiating table again.

RATH: Wow. So where does this leave Greece and the eurozone?

KAKISSIS: Well, you know, that's the trillion-dollar question - or the trillion-euro question, I guess - whichever currency you want to use. Greek banks can't stay closed forever without people really going nuts, you know? As the days go on, there are going to be concerns that there will be panic, people emptying out supermarkets, people lining up for medicine, most of which is imported. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that the banks will reopen on Tuesday, but it's really hard to see how that's going to happen since they have so little liquidity.

RATH: That's Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Joanna, thanks so much.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.