Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

In October 2017, Alexis Tsipras will complete eight years as a deputy in Parliament. He was first elected as an MP on October 4, 2009. If he wants to be consistent with his purportedly radical, groundbreaking pledges, then he ought to step down as deputy next year and, later, as prime minister – as dictated by his own proposals on constitutional reform.

Sure, the new constitution will not have been rubber-stamped by then. But the SYRIZA leader would nevertheless be presented with a wonderful opportunity to launch his “revolution of democracy” and speed up the passage to what he likes to call “the new metapolitefsi” – a word used here to describe the years following the 1967-74 military dictatorship. It would be an opportunity for Tsipras to break fresh ground, as he promised to do ahead of the elections that installed him in the driver’s seat, when he said that he would do away with the country’s bailout agreements.

Of course, no one really expects Tsipras to act this way. However, the above case is indicative of the ulterior motives behind his government’s plan for constitutional reform. It was a proposal that the prime minister sought to disguise with left-leaning rules, as it were, in a bid to offset the bitter taste of his economic policies in the wake of the third bailout agreement.

These rules include constitutional recognition of collective bargaining in the labor market and public control over the water and electricity supply. Given what the government has already signed with its foreign lenders, such provisions are no more meaningful than a ban on excess taxation. Thankfully, no such measure has been put forward until now.

More important, and perhaps also more dangerous, was the premier’s intention to elevate “the People,” as it were, into an authority in the constitutional review process. All major decisions, Tsipras suggested, would now rest with “the People.” The people who drafted the proposal apparently ignore the fact that it was “the People” who sanctioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to behave like a sultan and to eliminate all voices of dissent. Similarly, it was “the People” that picked Donald Trump as a candidate for US President.

We live in an era where reason is taking hits from all sides, the cacophony of technology has the power to disorient and turn the marginal into mainstream, the pressure from mass migration is growing, racism is on the rise and the threat of terrorism is spreading. The support by populist politicians for more direct forms of democracy is bound to backfire.

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