ATHENS, Greece — Greek voters facing a momentous vote Sunday that may determine the country’s future in Europe can be forgiven for scratching their heads when they read the ballot question that has to be marked with a “yes” or a “no.”
The question does not address the future of the euro currency — which many believe is at stake — or the future of Greece’s relationship with the 28-nation European Union.
Instead, it asks the following:
“Should the plan of agreement, which was submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in the Eurogroup of 25.06.2015 and is comprised of two parts that constitute their unified proposal be accepted?
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The first document is entitled “Reforms For The Completion Of The Current Program And Beyond” and the second “Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis.”
To complicate matters, the offer being voted on is no longer on the table, having been linked to a bailout package that expired earlier this week, and it is clear that many Greeks have not read the complex documents referred to.
Critics point out that many people in rural villages with little or no Internet access will not find an easy way to access the documents. Others without special training may find them overly technical and difficult to comprehend.
One person with training, a 21-year-old law student, said she understood the question and had studied the supporting documents, including the tax sections, before deciding to vote “no.” She said Greeks comprehend that the referendum is not just about the matters spelled out on the ballot, but deal with the broader issue of how European Union policy has shaped Greece during the austerity era.
So do most people understand the ballot question? Here is a sampling of responses when the question was read to citizens Friday:
I UNDERSTAND BUT IT’S STILL CONFUSING
Yanis Koutzouvelis, 19: “I understand the question in general but the question is not clear because we don’t know the consequences of voting ‘no’ and we don’t know if it means going out of the eurozone. I mean I don’t know in the end if the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ is in reference to the drachma (Greek’s former national currency) or not. I will look at a lot of television and radio news but it’s super-difficult to understand what it really means.”
THE QUESTION IS MISLEADING
Andreas Simeou, 56: “With that question the government misleads the people. It’s not the fault of the Greek people. Now the government is giving the whole weight to the people and it always says it’s someone else’s fault that everything is a mess here.”
GREEKS UNDERSTAND WHAT’S AT STAKE
Maria Gaspariatou, 42: “No one really cares what’s written on the ballot and what the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ means. They really know what it means from their lives. Like my grandmother, my granddad, my parents who are pensioners, they really know why they have to vote ‘no.’ The people understand that the whole last five years it was poverty and now we have to decide for ourselves. We have very difficult times and the Greek people know that. And they are ready go through that and have a better future.”
THE TV TOLD ME WHAT IT MEANS
Maria Koleti, 57: “It’s only difficult for the people to understand if they are silly. There was so much analysis on the TV and in the newspapers explaining the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ so no one has problems understanding what the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ means on the ballot. The only people who don’t understand are those who don’t want to understand. We know what it means.”
DON’T ASK ME, I DIDN’T STUDY ECONOMICS
Stratos Harvis, 46: “I’m not so informed and not so into that stuff so for me it’s difficult to understand that question. But the last years in Greece it was very difficult for the people, so I would vote ‘no’. It’s tricky for someone who’s not involved, the questions are tricky because the way they are written a lot of people won’t understand. You have to have studied economics.”
Katerina Bakola, 46, laughing as she heard the text of the question: “I don’t think the way it is posed is difficult to understand. For me the question was obvious. At least I understand the questions and I think all the people understand.”