I just finished watching the developments from the G20 meeting in Cannes. So, the conclusion as it was reported by Greek media is that the now famous referendum will be on whether we wish to continue using the euro or not.
I feel very disappointed and, once more, I get the impression that this whole story about the referendum was nothing more but another political machination of the government. When George Papandreou first announced the idea of a referendum, a couple of days after the Brussels’ deal, we all thought that the referendum was going to ask the citizens whether they want the new bailout package or not. In the case of a Yes, the PASOK government would be able to continue with their policies. In the case of a No, Greece would probably go totally and disorderly bankrupt and would have to return to the drachma. Inevitably analysts were, already since Monday night, talking that we would ultimately vote about our participation in the euro zone. But when they were saying this they were having in mind that the phraseology would involve whether we want the latest deal and not whether we want to stay in euro zone. However, after the meeting with Merkel and Sarkozy, Papandreou said that the referendum will be about the euro!
What’s the difference?
- If you ask Greeks whether they want the Brussels’ deal, they will all rush to the polling stations and say No. I’d say for sure (otherwise nobody would panick after Monday’s night announcement by Papandreou).
- If you ask about whether we want to keep the euro Greeks will be blackmailed for a whole month that their savings, if any are left, will be devalued again and again until Greece becomes competitive. So the simple citizens will be tempted to vote to stay in the euro zone.
- In the case of an outcome that dictates our exit from the euro zone, the PASOK government will need to call for elections. There will be a relative chaotic period and after going back to the drachma we’ll see all those who got rich in the past decades through doubtful methods and have already taken their millions of euros in banks out of Greece, re-importing their euro-capital after the devaluations of the drachma in order to buy out everything for nothing.
- Another very possible scenario is that Greeks will realize the vanity of this referendum (if the questions is about the euro and not the Brussels’ deal) and decide to abstain en masse from the polling stations. If less than 40% of the electorate votes, the result will not bind the government to act.
So we are going to have a referendum about the euro and no-one is wondering the simple question… Why now? We were not asked about it at the end of 1990s when we were heading towards the European Monetary Union. Why are we asked now about exiting? Why now?
All these thoughts made me come to the conclusion that this whole referendum story is void. It’s nothing more but a farce.
Before we see what the exact question is, Papandreou must get a vote of confidence at the Parliament this Friday. In the meantime nothing at all is officially changed. As the Merkozi couple have reiterated in Cannes “Greece should follow its obligations” (i.e. what was agreed in Brussels last week). No matter what the referendum question is.
Update: I forgot to mention one more thing. This government has been telling the Greek people before the last round of measures that we have enough cash to keep us going until mid-November. There was a narrativen that we should do everything we can to satisfy the ECB and the IMF in order to cash their cheque for the 6th installment of the previous bailout package. Othewise we were in danger (or facing the certainty) of having no money to pay the salaries & pensions. This “accept all kinds of new measures or we’ll run out of money” blackmail did its job well (as in last June and as in May 2010). The EU/IMF has now announced that they will not disengage the installment until the referendum (planned for the 4th of December) takes place. If we don’t go bankrupt by the end of November, that will mean that the government was caught lying. Again. And this is probably the only good thing that could come out of this referendum story.