Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

greeks celebrate no vote Chris Stowers/ZumaPress

Greece’s “No” is No Victory for Democracy

Despite what many are saying – especially those who do not have to bear the consequences of their words – Greek voters’ rejection on Sunday of the latest bailout offer from their country’s creditors did not represent a “victory for democracy.” In fact, it is quite the opposite.

PARIS – Despite what many are saying – especially those who do not have to bear the consequences of their words – Greek voters’ rejection on Sunday of the latest bailout offer from their country’s creditors did not represent a “victory for democracy.” For democracy, as the Greeks know better than anyone, is a matter of mediation, representation, and orderly delegation of power. It is not ordinarily a matter of referendum.

Democracy becomes a matter of referendum only in exceptional circumstances: when elected leaders run out of ideas, when they have lost the confidence of their electorate, or when the usual approaches have ceased to work. Was that the case in Greece? Was the position of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras so weak that he had no better choice than to pass the buck to his people by resorting to the extraordinary form of democracy that is democracy by referendum? What would happen if Greece’s partners, each time they confronted a decision that they lacked the courage to make, broke off discussions and demanded a week to allow the people to decide?

It is often said – and rightly so – that Europe is too bureaucratic, too unwieldy, too slow to make decisions. The least that can be said is that Tsipras’s approach does not make up for these defects. (Much more could be said, if it inspires Spanish citizens to take the risky decision of electing a government led by their own anti-austerity party, Podemos.)

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/dYjdTfy;
  1. elerian122_Peter MacdiarmidGetty Images for Somerset House_bigdatascreentechman Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House

    Adapting to a Fast-Forward World

    Mohamed A. El-Erian

    The world is going through a period of accelerating change, as four secular developments illustrate. Firms and governments must make timely adjustments, not only to their business models and operational approaches, but also to both their tactical and strategic mindsets.

    2
  2. roubini137_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images_xi putin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

    The White Swans of 2020

    Nouriel Roubini

    Financial markets remain blissfully in denial of the many predictable global crises that could come to a head this year, particularly in the months before the US presidential election. In addition to the increasingly obvious risks associated with climate change, at least four countries want to destabilize the US from within.

    8
  3. tharoor137_ Hafiz AhmedAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_india protest Hafiz Ahmed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Pariah India

    Shashi Tharoor laments that the government's intolerant chauvinism is leaving the country increasingly isolated.