"Is it five referndums you think you`ll need, George, before you get the right answer?"
History tells us that democracy was `invented` in ancient Greece. The word itself comes from the Greek word δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "rule of the people", which in turn was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) "people" and κράτος (Kratos) "power", in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC. So we shouldn`t be surprised that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has announced a referendum on the EU proposals for tackling the Greek debt crisis. Papandreou told the Greek voters it was up to them to decide the country's fate. "We trust citizens, we believe in their judgment, we believe in their decision," he told Socialist party deputies. "In a few weeks the (EU) agreement will be a new loan contract... we must spell out if we are accepting it or if we are rejecting it."
Unlike some other EU countries I could name, it sounds to me like the principles of democracy might be alive and well in its country of origin and to that extent it should be welcomed. But it won`t be, of course. Already the markets are reacting negatively and the Eurozone leaders seem genuinely appalled by Papandreou`s announcement and are threatening all kinds of dire consequences - all such reactions predicated, of course, on the prophecy of the Greeks rejecting the EU bailout package, which may or may not be a foregone conclusion.
It might all depend on what the question is - "Do you want 50% of our debt to be wiped out?" might encourage an overwhelming vote in favour. But "How do you fancy years of grinding poverty brought about by the demands of other countries in the Eurozone?" - might find a different response. So it will be interesting to see what question the Greek people will be asked.....and that of itself is something of a test of the democratic process.
But if we are truly to live by the democratic rules, then elected politicians should not try to bend them just to come up with answers that might suit them but that might not suit the people who elected them - vide the Irish referendum fiasco, the Lisbon Treaty fiasco et al.
Now I know I`m naive, politically innocent and too simple minded to be taken seriously, but if it`s the case that a Greek referendum result, rejecting the Eurozone proposals, brings about their default and expulsion from the Eurozone and plunges the rest of the Western economies and the EU project into even greater uncertainty, then if democracy is to mean anything at all, then so be it. It may be a heavy price, but if the Greeks are willing to pay it, so too should the rest of us. Unless true democracy has already been abandoned, of course. Or was never here to begin with?