[Caption/Credit for above photo: A ballot box is emptied by a voting official at the closing of polling stations in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015.  Reuters/Marko Djurica]

Greeks voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to reject terms of a bailout, risking financial ruin in a show of defiance that could splinter Europe.

With nearly half of the votes counted, official figures showed 61 percent of Greeks rejecting the bailout offer. An official interior ministry projection confirmed the figure as close to the expected final tally.

The astonishingly strong victory by the ‘No’ camp overturned opinion polls that had predicted an outcome too close to call. It leaves Greece in uncharted waters: risking financial and political isolation within the euro zone and a banking collapse if creditors refuse further aid.

But for millions of Greeks the outcome was an angry message to creditors that Greece can longer accept repeated rounds of austerity that, in five years, had left one in four without a job. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has denounced the price paid for aid as “blackmail” and a national “humiliation”.

Hundreds of Greeks began pouring into the central Syntagma square in front of parliament to celebrate, after a week of building desperation as banks were shut and cash withdrawals rationed to prevent a collapse of the Greek financial system.

“This is an imprint of the will of the Greek people and now it’s up to Europeans to show if they respect our opinion and want to help,” said Nikos Tarasis, a 23-year-old student.

Officials from the Greek government, which had argued that a ‘No’ vote would strengthen its hand to secure a better deal from international creditors after months of wrangling, immediately said they would try to restart talks with European partners.

“The government now has a strong mandate, a strong negotiating card, to bring a deal which will open new ways.”

But euro zone officials shot down any prospect of a quick resumption of talks. One official said there were no plans for an emergency meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday, adding the vote outcome meant the ministers “would not know what to discuss”.

Many of Athens’ partners have warned over the past week that a ‘No’ vote would mean cutting bridges with Europe and driving Greece’s crippled financial system into outright bankruptcy, dramatically worsening the country’s economic depression

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Full report at Reuters

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