Athens, 6 July 2015

Evangelos Venizelos

The People as a tool

The meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary parties, under the President of the Republic was a positive move. Each move involving dialogue is welcome. Any search for consensus is much more welcome. Of course, the meeting could have been made months or weeks earlier, and certainly before choosing to resort to a referendum that was by definition dilemmatic and therefore divisive.

* Does, therefore, a democratic pro-European arc exist? *

The issuing of a joint announcement by the leaders of the democratic parties arc that declare their European orientation, is positive. It is important, first of all, that the existence is accepted of a similar, democratic and pro-European, spectrum, with the participation of the two government partners and three opposition parties. This occurred a day after the referendum, in which we saw Golden Dawn allying with the “No” front, along with SYRIZA and ANEL, while ND, To Potami and PASOK partook in the “Yes” front.

However, the pursuit of the consensus at the highest and narrowest level of representation, that of single-member representation by each party leader, came paradoxically a day after the triumph of direct democracy with a referendum that was not seeking consensus, but clarification in favour of the greatest possible majority that would politically neutralize the weak minority. The clash after all took on an “ethical-patriotic” character with personal attacks against the “voluntary slaves” of “Yes”.


* The “No” that becomes “Yes” *

The overwhelming victory of “No” against a whole conception on measures, which was reflected in the 25/6 positions of the European institutions, entailed from the start the contradiction of the fact that these measures had been accepted by the Greek government at a percentage of about 90%.

 The meeting of political leaders interpreted with its announcement the content of “No”. “No” -as agreed by the five parties- does not signify a breach, but a “yes” to an acceptable agreement. And because “acceptable agreement” is a pleonasm as a term, since any agreement is acceptable by both negotiating parties or else it is non-existent, “No” means “Yes” to an agreement, one that can be achieved as soon as possible in particular. The leaders of the two “No” parties (the third one, Golden Dawn, did not attend the meeting), but also the leaders of the three “Yes” parties, all agreed on this interpretation! This interpretation, thus, converts “No” to “Yes”, if an agreement is achieved that is too generally described and in a way that makes a dispute on it almost impossible. The negotiation, though, is not one between Greek political parties, despite the fact that the referendum divided Greek citizens as if they negotiated with each other.

* Does the representative system prevail over the referendum? *

The true picture in this meeting was that of a prime minister vested with the personal political power of the 61% who voted “No”, who calls for the support by the parties of the (democratic, pro-European) opposition for the next maneuvers and receives it, by promising a “yes.” But this occurs in the context of the constitutional division of powers and responsibilities between government and opposition in each representative parliamentary constitution. A national negotiating team has not been formed. The government is the government and the opposition is the opposition. At this stage, the referendum seems to be subordinated to the logic of the representative system.

* Plebiscitum rather than referendum *

Therefore, it seems that this referendum (for which there is one word in Greek, but two different in Latin) was not a normal referendum, but a plebiscitum, which is historically linked to the popular ratification of persons and not strategic options.

The common substrate of all these manipulations is a perception of the people as a tool, the will of which -through a referendum-  is being interpreted in the meeting room of the Presidential Mansion and acts as a political and, of course, intraparty support, not of an institutional instrument such as the prime minister, but of a person, Mr. Tsipras.

The people, who are institutionally dominant, but are politically being used to promote a wider plan, gave the referendum a power that is now used disconnected from any particular content.

 In this phase, through the complete and utter generalities of the joint announcement of the political leaders, the power seems to be directed towards the search for an agreement with the EU and the IMF.

* Can “Yes” turn once more into a “No”? *

With the same ease, it can be used after a few days as a legitimizing basis for rejecting any proposal judged as incompatible, not with the general statements of the joint announcement of the party leaders, but with the universal rejection behind the word “No” that prevailed in the referendum. Then the “No” which went on to become “yes”, may again become “no”.

The general and bland statements of the joint announcement show a nationally useful will for national consensus. But these statements are far off from the content of a comprehensive agreement containing the restoration of liquidity, financial coverage, assurance on the interventions to the debt, following that of 2012, additional development other than that of the NSRF, the CAP and the EIB, structural changes, but particularly tough fiscal measures, measures of a Memorandum 3.

* The end of the Metapolitefsi period? *

I have noted that Mr. Kammenos insists on talking about the end of the Metapolitefsi period (the new regime since the fall of the junta in 1974) that is associated with two achievements: the uninterrupted functioning of parliamentary democracy and the European orientation of the country. I do not attribute any tangible content to this observation, but I have to note it down, though. Mr. Tsipras also says that he denounces the notion of a breach and persistently declares that he seeks agreement and consensus. Hopefully he means it, after having caused elections due to a failure of electing a President of the Republic, after having immediately entered into a motley governmental cooperation with ANEL, after having let five whole months pass, in the way that they have, after having caused such a referendum to be held, a referendum in which there was a common vote orientation of the government and Golden Dawn.

 Let us hope that everyone is aware of the situation and the risks.

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