Changes to constitution deserve full attention

Changes to constitution deserve full attention

The constitutional review is a very serious business and it was time that it started.

The process of restoring democracy after the 1967-74 military dictatorship has come to a definite end and the country needs to resolve a number of persistent problems through institutional changes. There are issues such as ministers’ and lawmakers’ immunity from criminal prosecution that are long overdue for consideration.

One hopes that we have matured enough as a society to know what our problems stem from and what we need to do to solve them. Yet I must confess that I am a bit scared.

Constitutions are not things that should be changed too often; only when circumstances demand it. We have seen amendments of the Greek Constitution in the past that were too complicated and, unfortunately, only served certain political ends at that time.

My other concern is that a review of the Constitution done at the wrong time and by the wrong people could prove catastrophic. If done by a parliament dominated by extremes and uncontrolled populism, then we may be stuck with the negative consequences for a long time to come.

Because it is such a serious matter, people with experience and knowledge of the subject need to be heard. The Sunday edition of Greek Kathimerini offered that very opportunity by hosting the opinions of a number of experts in the field regarding the changes that should be made to Greece’s constitution.

Former prime ministers who had very definite ideas on this topic, such as the conservative Costas Karamanlis, should contribute to the public dialogue. After all, if you haven’t had firsthand experience of the problems of governing this country, it’s hard to know how to pinpoint the important issues.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also needs to rise above his narrow ideological and partisan beliefs to take a broader view, but he will inevitably come under an enormous amount of pressure to use the opportunity to draft a constitution that approaches the leftist utopian dream.

What will come from this process is difficult to predict because it depends on what kind of parliament we will have next, whether it’s made up of indignants or reformists.

The simple fact is that even if a few problems are solved – such as the electoral law and the issue of politicians’ immunity – we will all benefit.

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