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All of Greece partied last night after rejecting austerity

Faced with a choice between economic hardship imposed by European creditors and an uncertain future, Greece chose the unknown

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For most Americans, this past weekend was one long celebration of national pride, as the Independence Day fireworks gave way to the Women’s World Cup final victory. But the US wasn’t alone in having a patriotic party; the Greeks were dancing in the streets on Sunday as well. Greece’s reasons for jubilation are a little more complex than the American ones, but the end result has been a rather similar expression of national unity and self-determination.

Sunday’s big event for the Greek people was a referendum asking them whether to accept the latest proposal from the country’s international creditors. Saying “yes” would have secured Greece a fresh tranche of bailout money to keep it from teetering off the edge of economic oblivion, but it also would have accelerated an increase in the country’s pension age and imposed tough new conditions on an already embattled population. Saying "no," more than just the opposite of "yes," would serve as a symbolic defiance of austerity imposed from outside. The Greek people decided, with a clear majority, to reject the proposed bailout. And then they threw a party.

Lead photo: PACIFIC PRESS / Getty Images

Greece parties after referendum decision on July 5


More than anything, the referendum offered a cathartic moment for a country that’s been under economic pressure for over half a decade. Greece has been one of the hardest-hit victims of the global economic crisis of 2008, and is presently deeply indebted to a number of international organizations that have helped it avoid defaulting on its national debt. In order to appease those creditors, the country has already instituted numerous reforms and spending cutbacks, but its new Syriza-led government has spent most of this year locked up in unproductive efforts to renegotiate the terms of its loans. (Photo credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / Getty Images)