These Young Greeks Think a 'No' Vote Could Ruin Everything
"Don't get me wrong: I don't think voting yes will improve Greece's prospects."
This article originally appeared on VICE Greece
Since the bailout referendum was announced on Saturday, Greece has been divided by two fairly conflicting opinions. One being: "Whatever happens, it doesn't even matter. There's nothing to lose"—which seems to be the standard argument for those in favor of a no vote—and the other: "If there's a no, then we're likely to lose everything."
Thanos and Theodoris, two young Greeks we met, will both vote yes tonight. They're certain that a no vote will send Greece into a downward spiral, and that their lives, as well as the lives of many others, will be significantly affected.
Theodoris, 29-years-old, Digital Marketer
I met up with Theodoris in Ambelokipi, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Athens. Theodoris lives with his family. He's been at his current job for a few months, but spent a while unemployed before that. He studied economics at Piraeus University and finished it as a Masters degree in France. Following his education, he returned to Greece, where he held a good job until he was made redundant at the start of the economic downturn.
VICE: How do you think things are going to look from Monday onwards?
Theodoris: Whether people vote yes or no, things are going to be difficult. I think the worst part of this referendum is the divide that it's created between Greeks. I hope that, whatever the outcome, it will be respected by both sides and we'll all sit down together and come up with a solution to get out of whatever dead-end we get stuck in.
Which of the referendum's two choices do you think is the correct one?
I'll vote yes because I actually agree with both the measures put forth by our lenders and the overall attitude of our European partners. That, and the fact that I can't see any sort of serious plan—financial or social—being presented that could handle the impact of a no majority. The time and manner in which this referendum was called is undemocratic—we've been asked to answer a question that isn't even clear. There was no time for anyone to get any understanding of what it all meant. Because of that, everyone interprets yes and no differently. I think that a yes vote means the political system will be under even more pressure to undertake the reforms that we very much need to change the current ills of the public sector.
What have you got to lose with a no vote?
I worry for the weaker population groups—the elderly, people will health problems and children. They will all be obliged, even if it's just for a few months, to live under unprecedented conditions. There'll be a lack of essential goods, like medicine. Personally, I'm afraid that I'll lose my job, because I have no idea whether the company I work for will be able to keep operating. I'm not too worried about losing the money in my bank account—I don't have very much.
What would a no vote mean for Greece?
This week's blow to our economy was very powerful. There was a collapse of public confidence in the banking system. That could take months, or even years, to rebuild. We lost a complete tourist season—that will have major consequences for the income of many Greeks, particularly those that live on the islands. Where I work—in the private sector—took a hit, too. From Monday on, most companies are informally putting their operations on hold. I think it's only a matter of days before the ATMs dry up completely.
So you think a yes vote has a better prognosis?
Don't get me wrong: I don't think voting yes will improve Greece's prospects. The memoranda won't create any potential for development in the country. But at least it will send a signal to Europe that Greece wants to remain in the euro. Maybe it'll instigate the creation of a coalition government that could make the reforms necessary to fix the country.
Would you consider going abroad again?
No. I love my country, even if it has bad sides. I want to stay here and help the country get out of the crisis. As difficult as it is to live and work in Greece, I can't imagine myself anywhere else. I hope I'm not forced to emigrate, like my father was in the 1960s.
Thanos, 24, Lawyer
Thanos is new to the legal world. Before entering his family's law firm, he gained a degree at the Athens School of Law. Right now, he's finishing his army service.
VICE: What's going to happy from Monday on?
Thanos: Nothing good. I think our bank accounts will be affected first. There's no way around it. I think that voting yes will leave more room for negotiation, and therefore a better chance to reach an agreement. I think that it's going to be difficult at a national level, though. Our Prime Minister has done a good job of dividing the Greek people. Sure, this whole referendum is being conducted as a democratic process, but the question that's been raised is really unclear. I'd call it illegitimate. You can't solve this issue with a simple question like that. That's why the answer isn't simple.
What are you voting?
Definitely yes. The country needs to remain in the Eurozone, the euro and Europe. We need to negotiate and find the best solution, but we need to do it within this framework. The future of our country shouldn't be compromised by being driven out in non-European, uncharted waters.
What harm could a no vote do to Greece?
The risk is that it'll disintegrate basic institutions, like security, both inside and outside of the state. Another risk is a return to the drachma. That would mean higher inflation. It's a devalued currency, so reinstating it would mean reducing imports like pharmaceuticals and petrol, as well as exports. Liquidity is also a direct threat. The banking system is about to collapse.
Watch: 'Immigrants Are Walking Hundreds of Miles from Greece to Germany':
What will change for you if the result turns out to be a resounding no?
There'll be a huge impact on the justice system, something that concerns me directly. Trust in the judicial system will collapse, and judges won't be able to do their job.
Will a yes majority solve all the country's problems?
Definitely not. But it would put us in a strong position to negotiate. A yes vote will show a Greece that wants to stay in the Eurozone. Our European partners will probably look upon us a bit friendlier.
If things were to get really bad, would you leave?
I think that question is answered best with a quote from a Greek cartoonist called Arkas: "We're like a tampon. We're in the best place, but at the worst time." I don't want to think about moving abroad. I believe in the Greek people's power, their mind and the innovative abilities. I believe that people here are resourceful enough to come up with great business ideas that can stop them having to leave.