Athens: Greek citizens on Sunday voted in a historic referendum to choose whether or not to accept a debt deal proposal tabled in late June by the country's lenders. The counting was underway after polling stations closed around 7 p.m., media reports said.
The outcome may have a decisive impact on the country's future course and determine whether Greece will avert a looming disorderly default and possible Grexit which could shake the euro zone.
Polling stations, about 19,000 in number, opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m. The first official estimates by the interior ministry were expected at around 9 p.m., Xinhua reported.
Earlier in the day, Greece President Prokopis Pavlopoulos appealed to the citizens to remain united regardless of the outcome of Sunday's vote, according to ANA-MPA news agency.
According to the Greek ministry of internal affairs and administrative reform, about 8.5 million people were eligible to vote in the referendum.
Opinion surveys ahead of the voting showed that the electorate was evenly divided between "YES" and "NO". Polling firms did not conduct traditional exit polls outside polling booths as the result was too close to call.
The referendum would be considered valid if at least 40 percent of registered voters participate in the vote, TASS news agency reported.
Casting their ballots on Sunday, all political leaders urged Greeks, irrespective of the results, to face the next day united to overcome the crisis.
Ahead of the referendum, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave a call to the citizens to vote against the creditors' proposals for austerity reforms, thus throwing into question the country's continuance in the eurozone.
He said the creditors' proposals were clearly violating the pan-European rules and the right to employment, equality and dignity.
He urged the Greek people to say "No" to the proposals and the "No" vote would be the chief argument which the government would use as the basis for improving the parameters of the agreement during further consultations with the creditors.
Main opposition conservative party leader Antonis Samaras called on Greeks to "vote YES to Greece, YES to Europe."
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who has said that he will resign if "YES" prevails, said that Sunday's Greek referendum was an opportunity to show the entire world that "democracy and the euro can co-exist".
Voters were given two ballots on Sunday, one with the question of the referendum and a blank one. Citizens were required to write a cross either in the box under their preferred response, or on the left or right of their response.
According to unofficial estimates from the interior ministry shortly before the polls closed, the turnout was likely to reach 60 percent.
Opposition parties and citizens complained that the question was misleading and some people did not quite understand it.
Tsipras, who called the referendum a week ago as five month negotiations with lenders had hit an impasse, reassured that on July 7 Greece will sign a deal and the banks which closed on June 29, when capital controls were imposed after the European Central Bank cut off emergency liquidity aid following his surprise call for the referendum, will reopen.
Since July 1 Greece is already in arrears to the International Monetary Fund -- and without the safety net of the bailout programme that kept it afloat over the past five years -- is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
According to the interior ministry, the Greek referendum cost about 20 million euros.