Greeks voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reject the latest austerity agreement proposed by the Eurozone leadership. While the magnitude of the margin (61-39%) was surprising, I was not at all surprised that the No (Oxi) vote won. Oxi Day–the day when the Greek government proudly stood up to the Fascist Italians and said “Oxi” to their demand to occupy the country–is one of the most important national holidays on the Greek calendar. The historical and emotional resonance of the “Oxi” as a symbol of Greek pride and independence in the face of foreign interference was overwhelming. Whether or not people fully understood what the two options meant, whether or not the potential ramifications of the two decisions were clear, the sense that this vote was actually about Greek pride and self-determination became the dominant theme, one which the ham-fisted Eurozone leadership played right into in the week leading up to the vote.
I strongly suspect that those Greeks who were on the fence a week ago were pushed well over to the No side in the last several days by the blatant scare-mongering and interference by the Eurozone leaders, who foolishly took it upon themselves to lecture the Greek people on the dangers of voting No. Was it not obvious that this heavy-handed interference would backfire? Have none of these people read Zorba (or at least seen the movie) to understand that Greeks feel rather strongly about their independence?
My initial reaction to the results is the following:
1) Kudos to the Greek people for standing up for what they believe in and taking the risk of leaping into an unknown future in the name of democracy and self-determination.
2) Holy Shit–what now?
My friend M., when I asked him how he planned to vote in the referendum said “We are on the edge of the cliff, looking down into the ravine. Do we jump?” Well, now they have jumped and are suspended over the ravine. No one knows what will come next. The resignation of Iannis Varoufakis from his post as Finance Minister (the announcement is on his blog here) was a positive step, as much as I often agree with him and find him entertaining. The chances of a Varoufakis-led negotiating team coming to an agreement with European partners was nil–he has become persona non grata, rightly or wrongly, among his Eurozone colleagues.
Now we look to see what the European Central Bank will do. It could choose to cut off emergency support for the Greek banking system, which reportedly holds only the equivalent of less than 100 Euros per Greek resident and which would immediately collapse, sending Greece rapidly out of the Euro. But one would have to bet that they don’t want to see such a sudden, catastrophic denouement to this years’ long saga. Stay tuned…