Competing democracies

So, if the Greek parliament votes to sack George Papandreou and thereby cancels plans for Greece to hold a risk-laden referendum, is that democracy?

Is it democratic to use referendums as a tool of political advantage (as they often are used)?

Is it democratic to cancel plans for a referendum by a vote in the elected parliament?

Referendums are more usually the tool of the powerful (who hold them as and when they feel the need, and influence them through the media) rather than of the people. I don’t think there’s a problem with Parliament overturning a PM who’s suggested a referendum if it thinks that’s where the national interest lies (as main opposition Nea Dimokratia clearly do).

Greece, though,

The Hellenic Parliament building in Athens.
House of the People? Image via Wikipedia

is in an extraordinary situation, and whether the referendum goes ahead or not (and my guess is “not”), it has shown again that as soon as the immediate crisis is past, we have to start planning for a proper democratic settlement for the Eurozone or (ideally) the EU.

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Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.

One reply on “Competing democracies”

  1. Referenda are less than “democratic” because of who asks the question, what they ask and when. In this case, it’s nakedly a tactic that has backfired in a negotiation among elites. Papandreou didn’t suddenly wake up and realise that there was a democratic deficit in Europe that needed to be addressed. It was just another card to be played.

    It highlights that whilst everyone has been worrying about the yawning gap between the monetary and the fiscal, the similar gap between the governed and the governing needs fixing too. Both need to be closed for the long-term survival of the “European project”. I’m not sure the prognosis is good for either.

    In an ideal world, someone would step up and say “We’ve done half a job, twice. We can’t have monetary without fiscal union and we can’t have executive functions without executive mandates. We double down or go home and here’s the case to double down. Greece, here’s your coat.”

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