Constitutional poppycock

Constitutional poppycock

How wonderful it would be if Greece’s problems could be solved with changes to the electoral law, a review of the Constitution, the election of president by the people or a redefinition of his powers. If this were in fact the case it would be one of the happiest countries in Europe.

Unfortunately – after the wrap-up of the first bailout review and months and months of negotiations that crossed all sorts of “red lines” the government had vowed to uphold – this is all nothing short of poppycock. The facts are simple: The Greek political system is collapsing, its political parties do not address the needs of society, and our leaders, even the young ones, are mere clones of their predecessors. Changing this situation will require the long and arduous process of becoming self-aware rather the smug self-satisfaction that is so prevalent today.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his SYRIZA party are representatives par excellence of the “radical left,” which theoretically endows the – nebulous and all-inclusive – notion of popular sovereignty with an almost metaphysical dimension. This explains why the party is championing the election of president by the people, a process that could result in some TV persona assuming the country’s highest office. No one, however, is so naive as to be unable to see that bolstering the notion of popular sovereignty serves the party’s agenda at this time. This tends to be the case most of the time, only now we wonder what their popular sovereignty entails when the real thing has been so thoroughly compromised, as even the prime minister himself has admitted.

Then we come to the issue of the constitutional review. Greeks are renowned for being nuts about their Constitution. The Constitution of Epidaurus was adopted in 1822, at the start of the Greek War of Independence, long before a state was even established. Then, before Ioannis Kapodistrias became the country’s first prime minister, we had the Constitution of Troezen in 1827, an extremely liberal charter that was completely out of touch with reality and also restricted the powers of the first head of state, who refused to implement it. Last but not least, most of the national assemblies held to discuss the 1844 Constitution were dedicated to the rights of the natives at the expense of foreigners.

Many, many years have passed and so little seems to have changed. The 1975 Constitution has already been subject to review three times, most recently in 2008. And now, the subject has arisen again, just as the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, ruled that a series of measures introduced under the bailout programs are unconstitutional.

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