Nick Squires in Athens 11 July 2015
Less than a week after they celebrated their rejection of a harsh austerity plan, many Greeks are struggling to understand why Alexis Tsipras is signing up to even deeper spending cuts
Protestors of the Communist-affiliated trade union PAME shouts slogans during a Anti-Austerity rally in front of the Greek Parliament, in Athens Photo: EPA
Less than a week after they triumphantly gave international creditors a bloody nose by rejecting a harsh austerity plan, angry and bewildered Greeks are left wondering how they now find themselves swallowing an even worse deal.
In a nationwide referendum just last Sunday, nearly 62 per cent of voters rejected an austerity deal that had been offered by the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
There were scenes of wild jubilation across the country.
In Athens' Syntagma Square, the Greek answer to Trafalgar Square, thousands of joyous 'No' voters hugged and kissed each other, waved Greece's national flag and swigged cans of beer.
“It was an expression of the will of the people,” Manos Agelidis, 27, a biomedical engineering PhD student, told The Telegraph as he celebrated with friends.
Fast forward just a few days, however, and Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, did the unthinkable.
On Thursday, with a deadline imposed by the creditors looming, he buckled.
His radical Left-wing Syriza government, which came to power in January on the unrealistic promise of putting an end to austerity and the country's six-year long economic nightmare, put forward a plan that promises spending cuts of €12 billion in return for a third international bail-out, this time worth €53.5 billion (£38.4bn).
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) and Government Vice-President Giannis Dragasakis (L) attend parliament in Athens (EPA)
What swung it appears to have been Mr Tsipras' realisation that after five months of painstaking and often acrimonious negotiations, Europe's patience really had finally run out and that without a drastic compromise, Greece could crash out of the euro.
He also won vague acknowledgment from the creditors that the nation's monumental debt of €320 billion is unsustainable and needs to be restructured.
But on the streets of Athens and in tavernas on the islands, many ordinary Greeks were dumb-founded over the spectacular U-turn.
They will now have to accept a package that is even harsher than the one that was rejected in the referendum, to the tune of about €4 billion.
"I voted 'No'. And of course this new proposal doesn't correspond to that 'No'," Vassilis Sika, 20, who is unemployed, said in Athens.
"I feel like a slave. They do what they want, and we can't participate."
The sentiment was echoed by Marios Rozis, a 23-year-old speech therapy student.
"Everybody was happy on Sunday, it was a mature decision against austerity. Today I feel the referendum happened for no reason. It doesn't make sense."
A demonstrator holds a placard reading "Tsipra, the people said no" during an anti-austerity rally in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki (AP)
A cartoon in the Kathimerini newspaper summed up the swift change in the public mood: a group of Greeks joyously cheering with a 'No' on Sunday next to a shot of the same group later in the week collectively gasping 'Oh No!'.
There was particular bitterness on Greece's islands, which for years have enjoyed VAT breaks and subsidies.
They will now be scrapped, leading to sharply increased costs for islanders as well as for international tourists.
“The cost of living for people who live on the islands all year round will rise to unbearable levels,” said Markos Koveos, the mayor of Paros, in the Cyclades group of islands. “It will also be a blow to tourism. We will lose competitiveness to nearby countries like Turkey and Malta, but also Italy and Spain.”
Spyros Vlahopoulos, the mayor of Paxos, one of the Ionian islands, said: “We are all very worried. We said 'No' to a package of €8.5 billion in cuts and now we're signing up to one of €12 or €13 billion. Tsipras has made a big mistake. But we can't do anything about it.”
There was a rally against the new bail-out in central Athens on Friday, with demonstrators chanting slogans and waving banners with messages such as "Greece is not a colony" and "No, overturn the bailout".
Several thousand Leftists protested in front of Parliament – the exact same place where just a few days before they had celebrated the rejection of the previous bail-out.
But for all the resentment of the new deal, analysts said Greeks were afraid of being kicked out of the euro zone and aware that painful reforms were the price for staying in.
"This issue (staying in Europe) needs to be resolved first - the majority of Greek people want that, even with a bad deal or a worse deal," said Thomas Gerakis of the Marc polling group.
But if and when the deal is accepted by all sides, the recriminations are likely to start in earnest.