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How is Greece likely to vote in austerity referendum?

The results of a nationwide vote Sunday could keep Greece’s debt-ridden economy afloat, or cut off desperately-needed financial support from its Eurozone lenders. PBS NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant has been reporting from Athens on the Greek financial crisis all week. As Europe awaits the highly-anticipated results of the referendum, Brabant joins Hari Sreenivasan with the latest on the mood in Greece.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    PBS NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant has been covering the latest developments and joins me now from Athens.

    You've been reporting on this for the past several weeks for us and other places. You've been talking to people on the street. The polls say that this vote is incredibly close. What's the feeling that you get on the street?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:

    It's impossible to tell which way this vote is going to go because it's a hugely difficult and complex vote for people to make. The question on the ballot paper is, is something that would probably baffle economic students.

    So, for ordinary people leaving out of the country, miles from Athens, it's a very difficult choice.

    But basically, it distills down to whether or not you want to vote for more of the same, which is increased austerity, which may be more severe that has been going on for the past five years, or something that is a step into the unknown, because nobody really knows what is going to happen if the country votes no.

    The government here is basically saying that they're going to have a better — better terms possibly with the creditors. But that's something that really s undecided.

    And so, this is the most difficult question in Greece's modern history.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    It's been a week since the banks have been closed, since money has been rationed, what are the impacts that you see? Are there shortages of goods in stores now due to import restrictions?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    No. We're not seeing shortages yet, but that's certainly something that people are talking about in the future. There are concerns that people just won't get the goods that they want to.

    The problem is that everybody now wants cash and — because cash is in short supply. And so, suppliers aren't giving materials to shops without getting cash. Customers are reluctant to part with their cash.

    And so, the actual liquidity of the whole country is shrinking, and that makes the difficult for the society to survive.

    The ironic thing is what the creditors really wanted to have is a sort of a modern society, financial society with credit and with money sort of going backwards and forwards electronically. But we're going backwards in that respect. It's going back to the 1980s.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, what are the possibilities on Monday in either way that the vote turns out? Do the central bankers, when they meet, could they approve bail-out funding if the yes side wins, or could they say, you're out of the Eurozone if the no side wins?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    I don't think so it's going to happen as quickly as that. I mean, this has been a much slower slide than people had imagined.

    People would have thought that after the default that there would have been sort of Armageddon and that simply hasn't happened. The slide downwards has been sort of fairly gentle.

    But the problem is, that the money is running out of the banks here. And the big question is, if there is a no vote, will the banks actually dry out because the European Central Bank may feel compelled not to give the banks here anymore — more money at all.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And what about the social tension regardless of which way the vote goes?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    It is really sort of quite intense because the country is completely divided. People are talking about this being the levels of hatred that might exist after this, is being something as deep as those that happened during the civil war which started 70 years ago.

    This is a country which always had this tendency to turn on itself and to fight to itself. It's got kind of a self destructed past in a way.

    People here have always fought against each other. And after the civil war ended in 1950, it took about 30 years for the country to be almost unified.

    And so, those are the kind of tensions that we're talking about. They're really immense. Although if you were to look around the city tonight, you would you say that it was relaxed. But there's an awful lot of tension under the surface.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Malcolm Brabant joining us from Athens, Greece, tonight — thanks so much.

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