Preparations underway for Greece's pivotal bailout vote

Athens (AFP) - The ballot has been drawn up and a 'Vote No' poster designed: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's government has lost no time in preparing for the country's hotly-anticipated bailout referendum.

"Should we accept the plan submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund during the Eurogroup of June 25?"

That is the question which Greeks will face on Sunday, according to a copy of the ballot released after Tsipras's unexpected decision to place the country's financial future in the hands of the people.

A 'No' victory could see the country crash out of the eurozone and change the face of the EU forever. A 'Yes' win would likely see the government forced to stand down, and fresh elections called.

The international creditors' plan "is composed of two parts, called 'reforms for the completion of the current programme and beyond' and 'preliminary debt sustainability analysis'," the ballot reads.

Voters must tick one of two boxes: 'No' or 'Yes'.

It is rare for a government to call a referendum in which they back a 'No' vote.

But 'no' is a popular word in Greece: there is even a national holiday called the 'No day', in reference to Greece's refusal to give in to an ultimatum from the Italian army, as it tried to enter Greek territory in 1940.

The bailout offer was published in Greek newspapers, is available for viewing on the European Commission website and was tweeted on Sunday by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

People in Athens could be seen with printed copies in their handbags or discussing it at street cafes.

"Printing of the ballots for the July 5 vote began yesterday," an interior ministry statement said, insisting that they would be distributed "in time, in every region of the country."

The poster designed by Tsipras's radical left Syriza party was posted on its website: "Vote 'No' for democracy and dignity", with 'No' (Oxi in Greek) written large against a background of the Greek flag.

The ministry has also begun accrediting the world's media for the big day.

The government has not released an estimated cost for the referendum, but several Greek newspapers have suggested the bill could come to 110 million euros ($123 million) -- a steep extra cost for a state already in dire straights financially.

In a bid to prevent the country's notorious red tape from delaying the vote, the government is expected to follow to the letter arrangements made for the January elections which brought Syriza and Tsipras to power.