An ill-fated heir

Prime Minister George Papandreou has become the joker in the Greek and international pack. The ?mild-mannered? interlocutor of May 2010, the ?objective? assessor of the country he likened to the Titanic, sinking under the burden of debt and corruption, the ?Europeanist? who signed with no negotiation a slapdash, destructive loan memorandum that led Greece into a deep recession, was viewed at home and abroad as having lost all political reason when he announced plans to hold a referendum — without saying exactly what the question will be.

Greece?s political parties ran to Greek President Karolos Papoulias demanding his immediate intervention in order to stave off the fatal referendum, which could condemn Greece to a eurozone exit. The general feeling was that Papandreou defied all conventional political reason and behaved irresponsibly, and the fact is that this is exactly what he did. But Papoulias has neither the will nor the inclination to embroil himself in a strategy to have the prime minister dethroned.

The most effective strategy to achieve this was that adopted by the Ottoman powers in August 1897, when the then reformists, under the cunning Midhat Pasha, turned to the Seyhulislam, the supreme religious authority, in order to get rid of Sultan Murad V, who delivered the following ruling: He simply said ?yes? when asked whether a sultan afflicted with a mental illness that prevents him from carrying out his duty can be deposed.

Even the declining Ottoman Empire had ways of getting out of a jam. Greece?s political parties insist that the only way out is to call general elections, recognizing enough maturity in the Greek people to elect a new government but not enough to decide on the country?s European prospects through a referendum. They are simply underestimating the crisis of the Greeks, who don?t question the euro, but the government.

There is not a single sane person who does not believe that Greece will be destroyed if Papandreou and his government remain in power. Therefore, the only danger is that Papandreou may win on his bluff. Already some of the most powerful Western leaders have acknowledged his right to call a referendum. Papandreou will also continue to accuse bankers and certain media companies of orchestrating his downfall, replaying scenes from the ?Apostasia? of 1965. He will let all hell break loose before he admits defeat, just like his father Andreas and his grandfather Georgios before him. One way or another, his passage from Greece?s political stage will be fatal.