The election of Greece’s president by the people is a highly problematic affair. The country has yet to reach a point of political maturity that would allow for the luxury of a public argument between an elected president and an elected prime minister with the Parliament represented by the latter.
Greece is still immersed in a deeply Mediterranean political culture, invariably flirting with extremes, tension and, ultimately, the system’s deregulation.
Cyprus, which has a presidential system of government, cannot be used as an example in this case. The island-country boasts a culture of consensus that was highlighted in the last few years through the way the country entered and subsequently exited the bailouts. Not to mention countries such as France and the United States, which have been testing their systems for decades.
Greece would constantly be in agony over a possible institutional crisis that could swiftly turn into a political crisis, or worse, culminate in some sort of in civil strife. Just imagine, for instance, a strong, elected president on the one hand and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the other disagreeing openly last summer. At the same time, the Greek political system is known for tabling candidates who could enjoy the backing of all parties, personalities who could eventually exercise the role of president with wisdom and prudence.
Meanwhile, there is another political dimension that could add to the overall sense of instability. A foreign observer of Greek affairs recently commented that he knows of no other country where as soon as a general election is over, everyone starts talking about the next round of local and European Parliament elections or the presidential election by the House.
What needs to change is anything that keeps destabilizing the system: changes in the electoral law based on opportunistic interests, resorting to elections if the required 180 MP votes for a president to be elected are not met, as well as an elected Parliament’s minimum mandate.
Certain experienced politicians believe that what needs to be reinforced are the executive powers, for a president or a prime minister to be able to be more effective.
This is a major issue indeed, one which touches upon several sensitive aspects of the Greek system, ranging from justice to public administration. While this might be true, lightly throwing around ideas that hide plenty of dangers for the sake of discussion is another thing altogether. What the country needs is more stability and effectiveness.