With banks shut and coffers running dry, Greece is rushing to organise a hastily called vote the country can ill afford.
It’s not just that Sunday’s vote could threaten the country’s place in the euro. It also may put more strain on the government’s and the population’s shaky finances.
The government says the cost will be about ^20 million ($22 million) for distributing ballots and paying election monitors. Opposition lawmakers say it may be as much as 120 million euros, citing a Finance Ministry study from 2011. The cost for Greeks will be yet another trip to their home region, five months after they did so to vote in the election that brought Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (pictured) to power.
Even the most modest form of transport home gets harder now that cash withdrawals are capped at ^60 a day and credit cards aren’t always accepted. The government is urging gas stations to accept credit cards and all public transport in Athens and the surrounding suburbs will be free.
“I don’t want to spend the money and I don’t want to vote,” said Dimitra Bakratsa, 34, who works in the tourism industry. She said she can’t afford to spend the ^60 on a return train ticket to Larissa, some 220 miles north of Athens, where she is registered. “To travel all that way and to spend the money, for what? It’s not going to change anything. There is no good option for Greece.”
Greek voters won’t be able to cast absentee ballots or vote by mail. And they can only vote at the polling stations where they are registered, usually the town of their birth, unless they’ve signed up as out-of-constituency ahead of time. The trip back home to vote is typical and turnout is usually high in a public that’s deeply engaged with politics. King’s return The country hasn’t held a referendum since 1974, when 69 per cent voted against the return of the former king after the fall of a military dictatorship. Greece’s fragmented politics have led to three general elections since it accepted a bailout in 2010 to avoid default.
Coming just five months after the January 25 election that brought Tsipras to power, Sunday’s referendum will be held under the same monitors, easing preparations. But ballots to the country 19,000 polling stations only started being dispatched on Wednesday.
Constitutional experts and lawyers have already raised concerns about the validity and fairness of the vote, arguing that time is too short for all the ballots and monitors to reach the polling stations.