Direct democracy

What goes around comes around. What ancient Greeks practiced some 2,523 years ago, demokratia — “the rule by the people” — is back in vogue despite recent setbacks.

And, as we forecast in our summer 2011 Trends Journal, Direct Democracy — “the rule of the people” — has become a megatrend in motion that will ignite boundless creativity, self-empowerment and general enlightenment that will be prove to be a global game-changer when embraced by nations that claim to be democratic. 

In Switzerland, where Direct Democracy has been long practiced, the people vote on major issues that affect them locally and globally. And, elected officials, whether they like the outcome of the vote or not, perform their duties as “public servants” by carrying out the will of the people. All that is needed to force a nationwide vote on a proposed constitutional change is for 100,000 Swiss voters to sign a petition. Should its citizens wish to force a national referendum on any federal law passed by Parliament, they need only 50,000 signatures. 

Greece, the cradle of democracy, has set a worldwide example by taking a giant step toward embracing the Swiss model of Direct Democracy.

In his June 27 televised address, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a referendum would be held so citizens could vote on a bailout deal imposed upon them by the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank. Just eight days later, on July 5, the Greek people, suffering deep economic depression, went to the polls to vote a simple yes to accept austerity measures imposed by The Troika or no to reject them.  

The first reaction from media experts and pundits was that the election would not be held — that it was a ploy, a bargaining chip, to get a better deal from The Troika. 

Indeed, in November 2011, with massive street protests and strikes paralyzing Greece in response to brutal “austerity” measures proposed by the triumvirate, then-Prime Minister George Papandreou called for a referendum. “We have faith in our citizens; we believe in their judgment and therefore in their decisions,” he declared.

In response to the pending referendum, European leaders suspended an overdue portion of the bailout money and Papandreou, buckling under pressure, canceled the referendum. Gone were his “faith” in citizens’ “judgment” and ability to make “decisions.”

The second reaction trumpeted by the press was that now, four years after the first promise of a referendum was killed — with Greek unemployment over 25 percent, its GDP down some 30 percent since 2008, the nation some $352 billion in debt with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 200 percent — the people would vote yes to accept the austerity measures. That’s according to a poll conducted for BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank.

Both pundits and pollsters were wrong. The election was held. For the vote to be valid, a minimum 40 percent turnout was required. Of the 62.5 percent of eligible voters who went to the polls, 61.3 percent voted no. Greece had once again put into practice what it had long preached: “It is called a democracy, because not the few but the many govern,” as Pericles said. 

From the Cradle of Democracy
to the Grave

Although the July 5 referendum would not solve Greece’s debt problems, it transferred power out of the hands of politicians and into the hands of the people … but only temporarily. Despite the overwhelming vote against the bailout terms, just one week later, Prime Minister Tsipras presented a new deal to The Troika with austerity measures harsher than the ones voters rejected, and rammed it though the Greek Parliament.  


What happened in Greece is a reflection of what is transpiring in most “democratic” nations: Bankism has replaced capitalism; political dictate has replaced democratic rule. What Prime Minister Tsipras and Parliament voted for in the bailout deal was much more than accepting austerity measures and relinquishing national sovereignty to The Ttroika: It was a vote against the will of the people and the dignity of human beings.

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