Greek projection: ‘No’ will win with over 61 pct

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The latest from the bailout referendum in Greece (all times local):

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8:50 p.m.

A government-backed “no” in Greece’s bailout referendum is set to win by 61 percent, according to an official projection by the country’s Interior Ministry.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras halted negotiations with creditors to hold the vote and seek a popular rejection of austerity measures. But European officials have warned a “no” vote could risk Greece’s membership of the euro.

The projected margin late Sunday was higher than originally indicated by polling date when the polls closed at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT).

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8:40 p.m.

Of the first 20 percent of votes counted in Greece’s referendum on whether to accept more austerity in exchange for a bailout, 60 percent voted “no” and 40 percent voted “yes.”

Three opinions polls, however, showed a much tighter race with a three to four percentage point difference between both sides.

Greeks voted on Sunday on its financial future, choosing in a referendum whether to accept creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for rescue loans or defiantly reject the deal. Final results are expected later Sunday.

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8:25 p.m.

A senior Greek opposition official says the expected “no” vote win in Sunday’s bailout referendum will increase pressure on the government to reach a deal with creditors.

Vangelis Meimarkis says “if we don’t have an agreement within 48 hours as the (prime minister) promised, then we are being led to a tragedy.”

Meimarakis, a former parliamentary speaker and a senior conservative lawmaker, tacitly acknowledges that the government has won the critical vote, but says Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is likely to make further concessions if the talks restart.

Meimarakis said Sunday that “I think the government has got the message that the time is over for game theory and gambling.”

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8 p.m.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is conferring with the country’s bankers over what to demand next from the European Central Bank, a ministry spokesman has confirmed.

The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity pending official announcements. It wasn’t immediately clear where the talks were taking place.

According to the head of the Greek Banks’ Association, cash is only going to last until Monday.

Although banks are expected to re-open Tuesday, it is almost impossible to have banks open without a large infusion of cash. Greek financial media have reported the Bank of Greece will ask the ECB for 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in emergency assistance.

Meanwhile, a close aide to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said a “no” vote win should not be regarded as an intention by the government to leave the euro.

It is wrong to link a “no” result to an exit from the eurozone. If a “no” prevails that will help us get a better agreement,” Minister of State Nikos Pappas told private Alpha television.

—By Demetris Nellas.

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7:50 p.m.

Greece’s defense minister, who heads the nationalist junior coalition partner, has tweeted that Greeks “won’t be blackmailed” and “democracy has won.”

Panos Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, has reacted to opinion polls showing a close race but a likely win in Sunday’s referendum by the “no” vote.

Kammenos says “the Greek people have proven that they won’t be blackmailed. They won’t be terrorized. They won’t be threatened. Democracy has won.”

Greeks voted on Sunday on its financial future, choosing in a referendum whether to accept creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for rescue loans or defiantly reject the deal. Results are expected later Sunday.

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7:30 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Paris on Monday to discuss the outcome of the Greek referendum with French President Francois Hollande.

Merkel’s office said Sunday that she will fly to Paris in the evening for a “joint assessment of the situation after the Greek referendum and to continue the close German-French cooperation on this issue.”

Soon after polls closed, Hollande made a similar announcement, saying he would have a working dinner with Merkel on Monday evening to “evaluate the consequences” of the vote.

Earlier in the day, the French economy minister said the German and French leaders had no disagreements when it came to dealing with the situation in Greece.

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7:20 p.m.

The governing left-wing Syriza party’s European member of parliament says that “Greek people are proving they want to remain in Europe” as equal members “and not as a debt colony.”

Dimitris Papadimoulis said that the country should wait for the official and final results of Sunday’s referendum, and called on his fellow countrymen to remain calm. Three opinion polls conducted during the voting indicate a tight race with a likely win by the “no” vote.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Sunday’s referendum last weekend, urging voters to reject creditor reform proposals. Opposition parties and many European officials have warned that a “no” vote, however, could endanger Greece’s position in Europe’s joint currency, the euro.

“A new effort is beginning,” he said, adding that Tsipras would move fast to conclude a deal with Greece’s creditors.

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7:10 p.m.

Three opinion polls carried out during Greece’s bailout referendum, which could affect the country’s future in the eurozone, indicate the “no” vote will win.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Sunday’s referendum last weekend, urging voters to reject creditor reform proposals.

Opposition parties and many European officials have warned that a “no” vote, however, could endanger Greece’s position in Europe’s joint currency, the euro.

The vote was held amid banking restrictions imposed last Monday, with Greeks lining up at ATMs across the country to withdraw a maximum 60 euros ($66) per day. Banks have been shut all week, and it is uncertain when they will reopen.

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6:55 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says that whatever the result in Greece, its future will be a difficult one.

Rajoy says the eurozone has rules and regulations “to ensure its own survival.”

He says that “Europe has always shown its solidarity with Greece, but the euro cannot be an ‘a la carte’ club in which you can pick and choose.”

Rajoy also said Sunday that “Greece needs to grow, create jobs, and to do so it must have policies that work to that effect. Demagogy always ends up crashing into reality.”

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4:40 p.m.

Even if Greek voters strongly favor “yes” or “no” in the bailout referendum, neither result leads to a clear answer for what Greece should do about its overstretched finances.

A “yes” result would likely produce a national unity government with a new election to follow — but that would take time, and without financial assistance, the chances of a full, chaotic default would increase.

Since Greece is no longer in a bailout program, it has to negotiate a new one with creditors that involves even more money for its debt-ridden government and the banks and new economic austerity measures. That means banking restrictions on money withdrawals and transfers may remain in place even longer than anticipated.

Despite the Greek government’s assertion that a “no” vote will not lead to a “Grexit” — a Greek exit from using the common euro currency — most experts agree it would open up more uncertain financial outcomes.

A number of European politicians, including Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the top eurozone official, have said a “no” vote would jeopardize Greece’s place in the 19-nation eurozone.

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3:05 p.m.

With four hours of voting to go, Greeks are turning out in solid numbers to vote on their financial future.

Private Mega TV channel says turnout has been markedly high, now standing at 35 percent, and lines have been seen at polling stations in Athens. Turnout must be above 40 percent for the referendum to be valid.

High turnouts are normal in Greece because voting is mandatory — although that law has not been enforced in recent years.

In the country’s first referendum since 1974, Greece’s 9.8 million voters are choosing Sunday whether to accept demands by international creditors for more austerity measures in return for bailout loans.

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2:10 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says a ‘no’ vote in Greece’s austerity referendum won’t make a future compromises with the country’s creditors easier — “on the contrary.”

Still, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Greeks have a right to vote on the future of their country and Greece will remain a member of the 28-nation European Union even if the referendum rejects the austerity demands being made of Greece by international creditors.

Steinmeier told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper that the debt situation in Greece, the unsolved problem of how to handle tens of thousands of migrants flooding in across the Mediterranean and Britain’s demands for EU reforms are straining the EU’s foundations.

He warned Sunday that a “Grexit” — Greece dropping out of the common euro currency used by 19 nations— would harm Europe’s credibility in the world.

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1:45 p.m.

Opinion polls this week have shown a generation divide in the Greek referendum — with the “no” vote against more austerity measures far more popular among younger Greek voters than older ones.

Retired school teacher Themis Hatziyannaki, 84, voted ‘yes’ Sunday at an Athens high school, saying she wants to continue enjoying the privileges of her Greek and European citizenship.

But she also says she understands that many young people want to vote “no” to express their anger at Greece’s creditors. Unemployment in Greece for young people under 25 stands at a whopping 51.9 percent.

Hatziyannaki says “I understand them, because when I was young I was a rebel.” But she said young people also have to consider what’s best for Greece’s future and look at what older generations have endured.

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1:15 p.m.

Greece’s finance minister says the referendum gives Greeks the opportunity to decide on the austerity “ultimatum” they were handed by other countries in the 19-nation eurozone.

Yanis Varoufakis says the eurozone’s “massive failures” led to demands for more austerity measures that Greeks themselves needed to express their views on. He said the vote on Sunday “gives hope to Europe that a common currency and democracy can coexist.”

Varoufakis spoke as he voted along with his 90-year-old father Giorgos in the southern Athens suburb of Faliro.

This is the first Greek referendum since 1974, when Greeks voted to abolish the monarchy.

(This corrects the spelling of Varoufakis’ first name to Yanis).

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12:45 p.m.

The Greek referendum does not address whether Greece should abandon the euro currency or leave the 28-member European Union, but many voters believe those issues are at stake.

Polls published Friday showed the two sides in a dead heat over whether to accept creditors’ demands for more austerity or reject them. But an overwhelming majority of those polled — about 75 percent — wanted Greece to remain among the 19 European nations using the shared euro currency.

Here’s the yes-or-no question Greeks face Sunday — and it’s not an easy one: “Must the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the Eurogroup of 25 June, 2015, and comprised of two parts which make up their joint proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled ‘reforms for the completion of the current program and beyond’ and the second ‘Preliminary debt sustainability analysis.'”

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11:40 a.m.

Greece’s prime minister says the country’s austerity referendum is sending the message that Greeks are embracing a united Europe but want to live “with dignity.”

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said after casting a ‘no’ ballot Sunday that the vote demonstrates the Greek people’s right to choose their own future. He said although many Greeks may pick a different choice than the government, “no one can ignore the will of the people to take their lives in their hands.”

Tsipras said the referendum “defeats fear and ultimatums.”

Tsipras wants the “no” side to win. He says that will booster his negotiating position to secure a better deal with creditors for loans to avoid a default and a banking collapse.

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11:20 a.m.

Which will help Greece more — voting “yes” or “no” to accepting more austerity demands from creditors?

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says a “no” vote would strengthen his hand to negotiate a better deal.

But proponents of a “yes” vote, including a parade of former prime ministers and the main opposition party, say backing his government will jeopardize Greece’s place in the club of 19 nations who use the common euro currency. Instead, they argue by voting “yes” Greece would get a new deal quickly to shore up its sinking economy.

Conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras cast his ballot Sunday, saying “we vote ‘yes’ to Greece. We vote ‘yes’ to Europe.”

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10:25 a.m.

The Greek referendum on whether or not to accept bailout demands by creditors is causing deep divisions, even among individual families.

Dimitris Danikoglous says he is voting “yes” because he fears Greece would be in danger if it leaves the European Union. His daughter Alexandra is voting “no” because she is tired of richer European nations bossing Greece around.

His son, Nikolas, is on his side — and he thinks polarized Greece may be on the verge of a civil war. His wife Dimitra distrusts both the Yes and the No campaigns and doesn’t plan to vote in Sunday’s momentous referendum.

In their apartment in the working-class Athens neighborhood of Tavros, the family members squabble over espresso frappes and fruit juice. Still, they are united in their belief that only as a strong family can they weather the coming storm.

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7 a.m.

Polls have opened across Greece in a hastily called referendum on whether the EU country will accept the tough creditor conditions attached to loans needed to avoid default and a banking collapse.

A “no” may lead to a chaotic departure from the shared euro currency. Even “yes” is no guarantee that creditors will agree to lend the billions more euros needed to get the country back on its feet.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is banking on fellow Greeks to deliver a resounding “no” in the popular vote that he believes will give him strong leverage in his negotiations with creditors — the EU and the International Monetary Fund — to swing a softer bailout deal.

Proponents of a “yes” vote, including the main opposition party, say backing the government will jeopardize Greece’s place in the 19-nation eurozone. Instead, they argue voting “yes” will allow Greece to get a new bailout deal quickly to shore up the economy.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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