In A True Democracy Referenda Should Be The Rule Not The Exception

In A True Democracy Referenda Should Be The Rule Not The Exception

This post is also available in: Greek

A crucial referendum will be held in Greece this coming Sunday, 5 July 2015. Greeks have to decide whether they accept the proposal of the institutions (ex-troika). Alexis Tsipras, prime minister of Greece, called people to vote “no” by saying that the proposal is an ultimatum “contravened the founding principles and values of Europe”.  If accepted, these proposals would “add to the already unbearable burden shouldered by the Greek people, further undermining economic and social recovery as well  as exacerbating social inequalities” and are “far-removed from any  prospect of a beneficial agreement for all parties”. Pirate Times contacted Thanasis Gounaris, chairman of the Board of Pirate Party of Greece, to discuss about the situation and party’s point of view which could be epitomized that “in a true democracy referenda should be the rule and not the exception to the rule”. 

It is very sad to see that in the country where democracy was born people have never been asked on very important issues related to their life and survival. One thing characteristic is that in Greece no referendum has been held for 40 years! Greek people were never asked if they wanted  their country to be a member of the European Union; whether they wished or not to change their currency from Drachmas to Euro; whether they wanted or not to host the Olympic Games in 2004; to accept or not memoranda and IMF’s help; if they wanted significant changes that  occurred in the local governance system. All those decades decisions have been taken by our representatives in the parliament. They supposed to stand on behalf of our interest but it’s out of a doubt for whom they stood and voted for. But better late than never, after five years of  deep depression and two memoranda, we are now given the opportunity to express ourselves and we watch most of the European technocrats, politicians and lobbyists to stand up against this prospective. Well I’m  asking you, what’s more democratic than to let people decide by a  referendum for their own future. Greece and Europe need more referenda  by instituting citizens’ participation in decision-making Gounaris, emphasized to Pirate Times.

Talking  about the referendum Gounaris remarked:

The question of the referendum is not clear and people feel confused and divided about the  implications of a “no” or a “yes” that may have in their country. We asked  the government to provide more and clear information on those two options, but it was not done so far. We have posted the text and the question of the referendum on our website and we urge Greeks to study them before they decide what’s best for the country.

Although the question is not very clear it is not concerning whether Greeks want to remain in Eurozone or not. That question is something very different. I think that both technically and legally it is impossible for a member to be eliminated from the Eurozone or EU. The only way for a state member to exit the union is by its own will. We don’t give any instruction to our members or people what to vote. We let our members to vote freely as always, dictated by their their conscience. What I would recommend is to sit down and reflect on their own personal situation and think what the austerity measures, imposed in our country for six years, have achieved. Then put their hand in their heart and decide with a clear mind away from the populism of the media.

On one hand, systemic media started a war against the government of SYRIZA and argued strongly for the “yes” option. People are in a state of shock; pensioners and workers in confusion and panic stand in queues outside closed banks. Living in such a artificially cultivated climate of economic uncertainty and fear of destabilization, it is very difficult to have a clear mind. On the other hand it is unacceptable for European officers to blackmail our country and try to turn Greeks against their government.

Personally I am optimistic that sanity will prevail in Europe and finally the situation will be normalized. But until then I think that our European partners will have to change their perspective on the situation because they have no idea about the living conditions in Greece. Unfortunately, besides the economic crisis we are experiencing a humanitarian crisis as well. Politicians, technocrats and the corporation lobby have no real connection with the reality the majority of the people experience, not only in Greece but in any other country of the world.

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The battle of the wording

Pirate Party of Greece reacted very calmly to prime minister’s call for a referendum by publishing a number of press releases supporting that in a true democracy referenda should be the rule and not the exception to the rule. After the failure of the negotiations in the Europgroup, PPGR released a press release (17 June) entitled “To Grexit or not to Grexit? Panic has always been a bad counselor“.

“…Nobody knows what is really happening and depending on which journalist we trust and the information that he tells us, we shape our reactions. Two of our key principles are transparency and promoting citizen participation. Negotiations are representing the citizens of 19  European Union countries, but no one knows what is being said in his name. Without transparency and information [being revealed] only by leaks, citizens cannot participate. The political forces of this country rather react than to be precautious. And usually react in panic. We see it happening all the time. Without information nobody can make any decisions. And we wonder with all those (political parties, politicians, journalists) who run to anticipate developments without any real information, on a subject unprecedented for the European data…”.

PPGR’s immediate response to the call for a referendum: “A good start” released on 27 June just after the announcement of the referendum

“The Pirate Party of Greece believes that the best way forward for our country will only come through the deep involvement of citizens in the consultation and decision-making processes. Towards this direction the referendum proposed by the Prime Minister is a good start. We expect further information on both options. Civil citizenship has the potential to bring radical changes in our society”.

Dilemma or a clear choice?” was released on 30 June, as a continuing press release

“…Citizens should know the whole truth, however hard it is. As citizens we have never been asked for the participation of Greece in the European Union, nor the signature of the Treaties and of course never anything happened to improve Europe as a whole. All European countries were trying to get as much as possible from the union and serve only their own interests. The same continues till today with the negotiations. We have not seen any effort by the lenders. The same goes for the previous  Greek governments….We do not like the blackmailing dilemmas. Nor do we believe that half of the Greeks are traitors, whichever way you see it. However, we believe that there is a serious lack of information and education, and especially democracy. Citizens’ participation can not be limited at a time only in national elections. Referendums are a good start for the practical restoration of democracy. Maybe that’s how we can get to a real democracy where citizens’ participation will be universal and constant, powers will be separated, “bonus seats” will be abolished and proportional representation will be a reality. If we had democracy in our country, referenda should be the rule and not the exception”.

Supporting Greece

Iceland and Greece have in common crisis’ experience. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, MP of PPIS, said in the Icelandic parliament:
“Since the European Union has been urging the Greek people to go against  the will of their Prime Minister, I would like to express my support and urge voters to follow their hearts in the imminent referendum”.

CrowdFunding a bailout fund for Greece. By the people, for the people”. A 29 years old Englishman call Europeans to help Greeks get €1.6bn bail out funds for the IMF. The European Union is home to 503 million people. €1.6bn might seem like a lot but it’s only just over €3 from each European, he writes in the relevant page. You can still help and depending of the amount of your contribution you can get postcards of Tsipras and popular Greek products, like feta and ouzo or salad, holidays for two in Greece, etc

PP-DE was one of the few Pirate parties that contacted PP-GR and asked for their point of view on EU and euro currency, which is now posted party’s website (in German). You can find the article written in English here.

A member of PP-GR trolling the whole situation outside closed banks, where everyone’s waiting to take money from ATM. A Greek pirate made a difference by depositing 220 euros! He asked the government to announce him as the “investor of the year”.

All pictures: CC-BY PPGR
Pictures from PPGR’s website: Referendum 2015: The Pirate Party of Greece urging Greek citizens to read carefully the text  and then go to vote in the Referendum Sunday, 5 July, 2015.

Stathis Leivaditis

About Stathis Leivaditis

The English “pirate” is derived from the Greek word “πειρατής” (peiratēs) and this in turn from the verb “πειράομαι” (peiráomai), “I attempt”, which is a derivative of the noun “πείρα” (peîra), “experience”. Coming from the depths of the centuries, the word “pirate” took on another dimension in our days. The ruling classes saw pirates as rebels and hated them. Rebels without a state, they were not submissive to any law, except from the laws they instituted themselves, improvising together. This is the feeling of a Pirate: when something doesn’t work, you have to attempt to bring a new concept. Sometimes it goes beyond a certain point and perhaps exceeds certain limits, because it is an expression of challenge; the challenge to change the system. I’m a member of the Board (and former chairman) of Pirate Party of Greece, also a member of press team of PPGR, former journalist, now a free lancer. I'm in the team of Pirate Times from the start, I joined voluntarily and consciously because I am interested to meet pirates from around the world, to exchange views and spread the pirate spirit.

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