European democracy is on the edge of the abyss
It’s been moving this way for some time, but now Europe’s leaders are going to have to answer a simple question on democracy: For, or against?
It’s often the little details casually slipped into the coverage that give the game away. Try this from today’s BBC report on the EU’s latest destined-for-certain-failure bailout deal for Greece:
“Opinion polls suggest that the two parties in the coalition, which currently dominate parliament, are facing huge losses at the next election, scheduled for April. Parties on the far left and far right, which are set to make big gains, are opposed to the bailout deal.“
So, fascists and communists are set to make inroads as the centre-right and centre-left parties of Europe discredit themselves by their dogged commitment to a set of suicidal policies concocted in Brussels? Well I never.
“Predictable, and predicted“, as the eurosceptics are now fond of saying: the hollowing out of European democracy has been leading us in this direction for years.
But the more you look into it the worse it gets. George Tzogopoulos, of the Bodossakis Foundation think tank, was quoted in the Irish Independent last week as saying: "In my view the election (in April) will be postponed because of EU pressure.“ All quite casual and unremarkable. A leading Greek analyst just thinks the EU will ban a general election.
And it’s certainly plausible. Remember the words of the (obviously unelected) European Council president, Herman van Rompuy, in November? Speaking after calls in Italy for a general election, he said: “This country needs reforms, not elections.”
As The Commentator said at the time: “It’s jaw dropping stuff. It’s like thinking you’re having a nightmare only for it to dawn on you that this is actually happening.”
Few democracies have been more damaged in Europe than Ireland, which was twice in the last decade forced to vote again after rejecting EU treaties in referendums. On the planned new Fiscal Union, a recent Red C poll for the country’s Sunday Business Post suggested that 72 percent of Irish citizens want a referendum, 21 percent don‘t and seven percent registered no opinion.
But the government, if it can, will ignore them.
And there’s more. Here’s what the same paper said in an editorial: “...in our view, a referendum campaign would risk creating significant economic and financial instability and, were the electorate to vote No, this instability would increase rapidly, costing jobs and threatening investment. In our current economic predicament, this is the last thing we need.“
Mainstream newspapers as well as leading politicians are now starting to talk about the “dangers“ of what we used to consider the normal process of ensuring democratic legitimacy. Isn’t it up to the Irish and Italians to decide what is in their interests? Apparently not.
But then again that right was not accorded to the French or the Dutch when they voted against the European Constitution. This time they weren’t forced to vote again, they were simply ignored and got the same thing which was rather transparently repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty.
As I said at the time, to ignore a referendum is actually worse than to rig it. When you rig an election you still show respect for the principle that the “winning side“ must at least be seen to get the most votes.
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