Can the Referendum As a Form of Direct Democracy Substitute the Lack of Confidence in Representative Institutions? the Case of the Greek Referendum in July 2015.

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 6D P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Nikos SARRIS, National Centre for Social Research, Greece
The outbreak of the economic crisis in Greece highlighted in a prominent way the crisis of the political system. The main characteristic of this crisis is the lack of confidence in representative institutions. This paper presents, through a series of research findings, (Eurobarometer, European Social Survey, Public issue etc.) the increasing distancing of citizens from the procedures of representation and the general lack of trust of the Greeks in institutions. The research data imprint a progressive crisis of the political system.

Since the restoration of Democracy in 1974, the bailout referendum that was conducted in Greece in July 2015 was the first after 40 years. The referendum seems to steer to classical Athenian democracy, and to the image of citizens flocking to the assemblies, in order to decide on the most important matters of the day.  In the contemporary state it can be seen as a part of representative democracy. Given that voters were presented with a complicated and ambiguous question, they had to rely on ways to simplify their decision on their vote.  The question of whether voters had to follow the parties they usually support was posed.  On the other hand, the political parties were called to persuade their voters and to analyze the arguments for and against “yes” and “no”.

The paper examines the political behavior both of the voters and the political parties, and attempts to answer the question of whether forms of direct democracy, such as the referendum, can substitute the lack of trust in representative institutions, and, thus, contribute to a better quality and empowerment of democracy. Is the referendum a substantial way to mobilize citizens to overpass political apathy and the crisis of the Political?