Greek PM ponders referendum trap

Greek PM ponders referendum trap

In what is seen as a bid to lay a political trap for New Democracy and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly examining the prospect of holding a referendum on reviewing the Constitution, which will also include the question of whether to consolidate Greece’s electoral system which was voted in Parliament last year.

A referendum result would not be binding, as the constitutional review will be completed by the country’s next parliament, in which current polls suggest New Democracy will have a majority.

But it is obvious that it will be very difficult for Mitsotakis to ignore the will of the electorate – if the result is affirmative – and proceed to overturn a law voted last year by lawmakers to abolish the system of 50 bonus seats to the party that wins the most votes in a national election. According to the recommendations received by Tsipras, the referendum will most likely take place at the end of fall.

Apart from aiming to constitutionally consolidate the electoral system, the referendum, if it does indeed go ahead, will also include questions with regard to the public character of energy and water resources and, possibly, the way Greece’s president is elected.

On the other hand, the referendum will steer clear of the political landmine issue of relations between Church and state, as well as private universities. However, despite the apparent zest of Tsipras – who has lagged significantly in recent polls – at the prospect of a referendum, leading officials of ruling SYRIZA appear far more reserved, arguing that the government will open itself to the charge of constitutional divergence, as the act of reviewing the Constitution is the exclusive prerogative of Parliament. 

SYRIZA MEP Costas Chrysogonos has already made public his opposition to a referendum. The attempt, he said, to circumvent the Constitution by going directly to the people would be tantamount to “an attempt to dissolve the Constitution.” The people, he said, can make their positions known on the review of the Constitution through national elections.

According to reports, New Democracy plans to boycott the referendum if it goes ahead and will ask citizens not to participate as it would move beyond the precepts of the Greek Constitution.

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