Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Parliamentary Governance Should not Operate Through Referendums

Greek constitutional arrangements are, well, Greek, to most of us.  Reuters reports that:

"...the constitution... does not allow referendums on economic issues, only on matters of great national importance.
The last time Greeks held a referendum was in December 1974, when they voted to abolish the monarchy shortly after the collapse of a military dictatorship.
"It's debatable whether the constitution allows such a referendum," said Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the small Democratic Left party. "The country must go to early elections. Given the situation, it's the most honorable solution."
For a referendum result to be binding, there must be a minimum 40 percent turnout on issues of "crucial national importance" and 50 percent on a law that has already been voted on in parliament and "regulates a serious social issue,"

That's a very high threshold to clear  on turnout alone, regardless of the vote itself. 

As has been widely pointed out, if the Greek Socialist prime minister feels that his government cannot govern through Parliament the honourable course is to resign, not call spurious referendums in vainglorious terms.

And if the Italian Centre-right prime minister finds that he cannot govern, through Parliament, to deliver what is required of Italy (which he clearly cannot as his repeated defeats except on dearly-bought votes of confidence  demonstrates) the honourable course is for his resignation to be offered too.


Nick Drew said...

good to have you back in action, HG

in times like these we like to hear more from you than just your weekly QT entry

at least the Libyan war is over ...

hatfield girl said...
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hatfield girl said...

Hello, ND. You are kind.

The Libyan war may be over, but the report that Greece's Defence minister has just dismissed the chief of the Greek National Defence General Staff, the chief of the Greek Army General Staff, and the chief of the Greek Air Force is suggestive of coups d'etat in the air.

All this, and the Florentines and their regional sidekicks have taken over the European Central Bank! I suppose if your family has been advising popes and emperors since the 1400s on banking matters, being told to resign by Mr Berlusconi doesn't cut it.

Caronte said...

In principle a referendum is a good idea, to give democratic legitimation to decisions that are not taken democratically.

The trouble is the relative speed of reaction of financial markets and national referendums: minutes, possibly seconds, for financial markets: weeks/months for referendums. In the meantime a country can go bust several times over...

hatfield girl said...

There are more problems with political decision-taking by referendums in parliamentary democracies than speed of reaction, C, but it's an important one.