ATHENS, Greece — Thousands of people streamed into Syntagma Square, the centre of Greek political life, to celebrate the enormous rejection of the country’s bailout deal on Sunday.
The snap referendum announced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday looked like it was going to be a nail-biting finish, and opinion polls straight afterward suggested No (Oxi) might win by a couple of percentage points.
In the end, the win for No was dramatic — over 60% of the country backed the government’s proposal to reject the agreement negotiated with the country’s European creditors. Every part of the country voted No, including those where Syriza, the governing party, barely got a quarter of the vote in the January elections.
The centre of the city is exploding with joy and energy — young people are dancing and shouting in front of the parliament building. Last week, there were similar-sized rallies for both the Yes and No campaigns here. Many of those who backed Yes must feel crushed — but it’s hard to find them anywhere out on the street.
For an hour or so after the vote’s outcome became clear, the atmosphere was actually shocked Almost nobody had genuinely expected such a resounding win. People started to flood toward the square from around the city. Some are waving Syriza flags, holding OXI banners, or buying up the Greek flags being sold on the square.
The sun went down but the crowd is lit up, appropriately, by the glowing red fountain in the middle of the square. Cars beeped their horns, people blew whistles and chants of “OXI, OXI, OXI” bounded round the square.
A small cheer went round as it was announced that Antonis Samaras, the former prime minister would be stepping down as leader of centre-right New Democracy.
Even some demonstrators from the Fourth International, a Trotskyite Greek political movement, were there to celebrate. These sort of groups aren’t used to winning very often.
The celebrations might not last. The government’s frankly ludicrous promises that banks could open on Tuesday and that a deal could be done within 48 hours will now be exposed to reality. Reports at the end of last week suggested the banking system has just €500 million in physical cash left are genuinely scary — that simply won’t last for a country of 11 million people.
Without immediate support from the European Central Bank and a deal with its creditors, things are going to get worse for Greece and soon. This vote could even be looked back on as the beginning of a process that sent the country spiralling out of the eurozone.
Tonight is the party, and it’s absolutely amazing. But Greece might be getting a monumental hangover in the days ahead.