On the 5th of July 2015 the Greek people overwhelmingly voted against the Third Bailout package that the Eurogroup had proposed to their government. Practically two out of three citizens (61.3 %) gave a resounding NO! in a surprise referendum, called just a week earlier, on 28 June, by the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The participation rate was very high, whether measured by Greek or European standards: 62.5%
The objective of the plebiscite was to determine whether the population was prepared to accept the bailout terms, which would lead to draconian austerity measures. The short, but very intense and emotional campaign of the government had exhorted the voters to decide against the said conditions, which were termed by Tsipras himself as 'humiliating' and depriving the country of its 'sovereignty.'
A YES outcome would have meant staying within the common currency club, but capitulating to Brussels and to Berlin, the government's rhetoric went on. In reality, this reflected the PM's personal message and charisma only. And it worked a miracle: the people, young and old, employed and unemployed alike, gave him full support. He got the NO!, which, per his plea and arguments, would give him a strong card to negotiate with the Eurozone's heads and to obtain debt reduction and other perks.
The result of the referendum could not have been more explicit. With the NO! in his pocket, Tsipras was supposed to fly to Brussels and deliver to the Eurogroup an ultimatum: you either tone down your austerity demands and trim the debt, or we part. Parting would mean Grexit--that is, departure of the country from the Euro.
Such possibility had been secretly envisaged earlier in the year, when Tsipras and his closest collaborators had realised that Greece had no future in the common currency. A task force, which included American economists, had been set up to prepare the exit plan and the reintroduction of Greece's traditional currency, the Drachma.
But early on the morning of 6th July, Tsipras told his Minister of the Economy and chief negotiator with the Eurogroup, Yanis Varoufakis, that Grexit was out of the question and that the NO! of the referendum needed be interpreted in a more subtle and esoteric manner. Tsipras overnight had made a 180 degrees turn, proclaiming that the NO! meant YES and that his subjects, the Greeks, wanted to keep the Euro and to discuss amicable terms for the acceptance of the bailout.
Varoufakis was livid, and his American advisers were disgusted. He resigned (some say he was asked to, which should have been expected in view of normalisation of the country's relations with the bloc, as the EU officials had developed a strong resentment towards him and his dialectic).
The same day, Varoufakis announced his project for the foundation of the 'Democracy in Europe Movement 2025' (DIEM 25), whose scope is to change the orientation of, and politics in the EU. A year later, it has attracted promising support among socialists and other leftists all around the Union.
"[DIEM 25] is a very simple, but radical idea: to democratise Europe," says Varoufakis who travels extensively on both sides of the Atlantic with missionary zeal in order to spread his message.
Meanwhile, the people of Greece are biting their fingers for having given Tsipras last July their vote of confidence.
The analysis of the Greek situation, a year after the NO!, will continue at this site next week, which marks the first anniversary of the 'heroic' negotiations between Tsipras and the heads of state and government of the EU.
The dramatic events around the Grexit, between the end of June and the middle of August 2015, are detailed in the chronicle click here