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Lemba de Miranda

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What Greece Tells Us About Democracy

Posted: 17/06/2012 10:38

People's rule: an ideal we are willing to promote, fight and die for or a political system considered the lesser evil of all other options and we put up with by lack of alternative. Since we, the people, don't really rule but choose a certain species called politicians to do that for us, the ideal of democracy has been watered down some what and probably never truly existed in the first place.

Greece is considered the cradle of western civilisation and has given us, besides literature, theatre and philosophy, that concept we consider a beacon of enlightenment. That very same country that has given democracy to the world, has made it quite clear it has an issue with the concept it invented. Greece's current economic and political crisis has been caused by several factors. Mismanagement by the country's ruling classes is a defining one.

The Greek electorate has made it evident it is fed up with the current crippling economic and political situation as previously considered marginalised parties opposing austerity measures received a considerable amount of votes in recently held parliamentary elections. Many outside Greece don't quite understand why the vast majority of Greeks want to remain part of the eurozone yet reject the austerity measures attached to the bailout package that are to ensure just that. It seems that Greece wants the gain without the pain.

But there might be more to the anti-austerity vote than meets the ballot box. The anti-austerity vote might well be a protest against the political establishment that is being held responsible for throwing the country into the deep crisis it is currently in. Perhaps the anti-austerity vote is a cry for a new sort of political class whether considered extreme right or operating at the far left of the spectrum, as long as the 'new class' is untainted by the mismanagement of the past. It's a reminder to politicians across the Continent that they are accountable to the people that have elected them and that they are not in power to serve themselves and their inner circle.

Democracy is supposed to gives us the idea that we, the people, are in control. That we, the people, are responsible for the action of those we voted into power. But how responsible are the people if the electorate is a prisoner of the political system it is forced to operate in? In the British first-past-the-post-system one has the option between two and a half main parties that have all gravitated to a sort of centre ground. Whoever wins the elections gets to rule over a majority of around 60% that didn't vote for that particular party. How is that people's rule? In the system of proportional representation parties that make up coalition governments often have to make so many concessions to come to an agreement that little remains of the plans people voted the lot into power for in the first place. Is that people's rule?

Then in countries where the political classes truly mess up, where mismanagement and a culture of clientelism have thrown a country into an economic wasteland kept afloat by EU and IMF money because the nation is technically bankrupt, then the electorate might rear its ugly head, vote for extremist parties and put the European Project in jeopardy. Democracy might be inefficient, it might even be a fallacy, but the ruling classes fooling us in its name need to realise that we, the people, require more than bread and games alone. The spokesperson of Greece's far right Golden Dawn party revealed his party's true colours by assaulting two female politicians during a live broadcast and fled the studio. He is still at large as the country's police force is unable or unwilling to arrest him. With new elections coming up this Sunday, which many view as a referendum on eurozone membership, the country and the world have had a bitter taste of what could be. If there is no more money to pay for food and the circus has left town, things could turn rather ugly indeed.

 

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