ATHENS • Greeks yesterday voted in a referendum that had the rest of the world on tenterhooks as the outcome may not just determine Greece's future in Europe's common currency but also roil financial markets globally.
The vote is expected to be close as polls have consistently shown a population that is desperate, angry and evenly split.
The referendum is officially a "yes" or "no" vote on a bailout offer from creditors, but a "yes" could bring down Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government, while European leaders say a "no" could force a chaotic exit from the euro.
Foreign exchange traders in Singapore were asked to be at their trading terminals earlier than usual this morning as the outcome of the Greek vote may become known in the wee hours of the night there.
The country of 11 million people was asked to accept or reject the offer which left-wing leader Tsipras spurned eight days ago.
He had urged a resounding "no", saying it would give him a strengthened mandate to return to negotiations and demand a better deal, including a writedown on Greece's massive debt.
His European partners, however, have said that rejection would set Greece on a path out of the euro, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the global economy.
"I voted 'no' to the 'yes' that our European partners insist I choose," said Ms Eleni Deligainni, 43, in Athens. "I have been jobless for nearly four years and was telling myself to be patient... but we've had enough deprivation and unemployment."
Given the chaos of the past week, in which Greece became the first developed economy to default on a loan with the International Monetary Fund, creditors say that a new deal will have to be drafted, probably involving harsher terms.
Still, some European countries have held out the prospect that Greece could continue to negotiate even if it votes "no".
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told BFM TV that the response to a "no" vote in the referendum cannot be an automatic exit from the euro zone.
Ordinary Greeks are deeply worried about their future, saying that the country was doomed, no matter how they voted.
"Tell me which kind of poverty to choose," Mr Dimitris Thivaios, a 63-year-old pensioner asked his friend Kyriakos Perrakis, a gardener, at a polling station.
"Well, do you want to be killed once off with a meat cleaver or you want to have your skin peeled off bit by bit?" Mr Perrakis answered.
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE