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Greece's Referendum

After a hard-won European plan to save the Greek economy - the deal would require banks that hold Greek government bonds to accept 50% losses and provide Greece with about $140 billion in rescue loans from European nations and the International Monetary Fund, one day after Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou stunned Europe by calling for a referendum!

But Greeks have been outraged by repeated rounds of tax increases and salary and pension cuts imposed as the government struggles to meet the conditions of a first, $153 billion bailout the country has been relying on since May 2010. With Greece facing a fourth year of recession next year, unions have held frequent strikes, and protests have often degenerated into riots.

A Greek rejection of the second rescue package could cause bank failures in Europe and perhaps a new recession in Europe, the market for 20 percent of American exports. It could also cause Greece to leave the alliance of 17 nations that use the euro.

In New York, the stocks of major banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase were hit hard. The value of the dollar rose, and bond prices jumped so dramatically that analysts said they were stunned.

Analysts said the bond action reflected fears that the turmoil in Greece would tear at the fabric of Europe's financial system and create a crisis that could engulf the entire European Union, which together forms the world's largest economy.l

A public vote would allow the party, vilified by an increasingly hostile public during months of strikes, sit-ins and violent protests over austerity measures, to shift responsibility for the country's fate to the Greek people themselves.

But it was unclear whether Papandreou's government would last long enough for the referendum to take place -- or even until Friday's confidence vote.

Several Socialist lawmakers openly rebelled, with one going as far as defecting. Milena Apostolaki's departure whittled Papandreou's parliamentary majority to just two deputies, leaving the party with 152 seats in the 300-member legislature.

Reference:  Associated Press, 20111101, "Greek government in chaos with debt deal in doubt"