The Slatest

Greek Expatriates Lobbying Friends Back Home, Flying In Ahead of Referendum Vote  

Anti-austerity protesters attend a demonstration in Athens on Friday calling for a ‘No’ vote in the upcoming referendum.

Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

For some Greek expatriates, too invested in the country’s upcoming referendum to just make phone calls and tweet to influence friends back home, this weekend will be taken up with travel. Reuters takes note of the subset of Greeks overseas making the journey to participate in the too-close-to-call election Sunday:

One airline put on extra flights and ticket prices have risen for expatriates who want to have a say in whether Greece accepts a cash-for-reform deal from international creditors or rejects it, potentially leading to a euro zone exit.

Konstantinos Dimitriou, a management consultant who lives in Singapore, is catching a plane early on Saturday and making the 19-hour journey back to Athens to vote ‘Yes’ to accept a deal.

“All the opportunities I got in my life to grow came in part from Greece’s relationship with Europe, not just my Greek passport,” he said.

He said the best man from his wedding was also flying back from New York to vote, as were two friends from Dublin and a former business partner from Sweden.

The return of Greeks living abroad for the nationwide referendum might bring to mind the wave of Irish citizens that made it home to vote on their country’s marriage equality referendum in May. While the result of the marriage vote might have been a source of pride for many Irish people, the Greeks are faced with a bleaker set of possible outcomes: securing continued international support under harsh austerity measures or a total default on debts and possibly a rocky exit from the euro zone.

On Friday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged citizens to choose an anti-austerity “No” vote as a way to “live in dignity in Europe” in the face of “those who terrorize you.” The Greek media, meanwhile, could be attempting to boost public perception of growing support for the pro-Europe “Yes” side, according to the Los Angeles Times:

[N]early all the mainstream press and television stations in Greece have skewed their coverage or are openly in favor of the “yes” campaign, throwing in doubt just how fair Sunday’s election will be. The snap referendum has already come under criticism for being called with too little notice by the left-wing Greek government—which is urging a “no” vote—to allow for proper campaigning and educating of voters.

“There is no doubt that the coverage is overwhelmingly biased,” said Nikolas Leontopoulos, an independent journalist who has investigated Greece’s power structure. The line between reporting and advocacy “has totally been blurred,” he said.

On Thursday, for example, the privately owned Antenna network’s evening newscast aired a montage of despairing retirees lining up at a bank to claim their pensions, which then cut to images of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his outspoken finance minister. Large red letters spelled out the word “shame” in Greek as ominous music played in the background.

The Times notes that one of the country’s top broadcasters showed only “Yes” rallies in its news coverage, despite the fact that there were sizeable demonstrations on both sides, a bias likely attributable to the pro-bailout bent of the large business interests that control many Greek media outlets.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the Greek financial crisis.