Monday, December 5, 2011

No Referendums Allowed

Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, is out. He tried to give the citizens of Greece a voice in their future. His cohorts - the Germans, the French, the Americans, et al, were having none of that. They spoke in singular voice: "No." Papandreou stepped down; so did democracy.

It is not that Papandreou's name is synonymous with democracy, but like a flailing Samson reaching with his last breath to do the right thing, he tried to return to the Greeks what which was born in Greece. It did not work. (I suppose the Germans are not sentimental.)

Now, the new Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos, has his marching orders: No referendum allowed.

A referendum is a simply mechanism in democracies by which citizens of a state can vote for or against proposed legislation that affect their lives. In the present cast, the European Union - in particular, the Germans - offered a bailout package to the sinking Greek economy, one that called for severe austerity measures to be imposed upon the Greek people.

In all fairness, the bailout package appears to be the lesser of two evils. The alternative is a Greek debt default and a likely tumbling-over-a-cliff of the Greek nation, perhaps pulling other nations behind. From all indications, the Greek people were poised to vote the package down, anyway. No chance. The referendum was scuttled, as was Papandreou.

With that, Greece has become a second tier democracy, little better than regimes like Iran that we rail against. Such regimes, too, allow their people to vote, but only so long as those votes do not interfere with the power of the state.

Today, democracy, itself, is under siege by those who claim to hold it dear. At a time when we herald the Arab Spring - the casting off of autocratic regimes for the sake of citizens' rights, in Europe (and the sake of financial autocrats who feign to know what is best for everyone - no referendum allowed.

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