Imagine the fate of your country hangs on a yes-or-no question. The question is drafted in cryptic, bureaucratic language and asks you to decide on an economic program that no longer exists. Leaders in neighboring countries are begging you to vote yes. Your government is begging you to vote no. Now you can understand what it feels like to live in Greece, land of debt, sunshine and, these days, profound political weirdness. The country is approaching one of the most important votes in its modern history on Sunday, one that could redefine its place in Europe, yet many people acknowledge they barely have a clue as to what, exactly, they are voting on. “No one is really telling us what it means,” said Erika Papamichalopoulou, 27, a resident of Athens. “No one is saying what will happen to us if we say yes, or what will happen to us if we say no.” Greece is deep into unknown territory. Its banks have been shut down. It missed a debt payment to the International Monetary Fund, and without new financial aid, it is likely to default on other debts this month.
Most European nations are in no rush to help, and in fact seem content to watch the Greeks dangle, though in a report released on Friday, the I.M.F. said that the country’s finances had deteriorated so sharply that it would need even more help. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who called for the referendum, has veered between bitter confrontation with the country’s creditors and conciliatory outreach.
Even as he signaled on Wednesday that he would accept many of the demands made by the creditors, he pressed ahead with the referendum and again urged Greeks to reject the proposal containing those demands.
In any case, as a parade of European leaders have pointed out, the proposal that Greeks are voting on is no longer on the table, having been built around the framework of a bailout package that expired on Tuesday. Confused? Welcome to Greece.