Is the Greek Bailout Referendum Legitimate?

Europe’s leading human rights organization is casting doubts on the legitimacy of the Greek referendum planned for July 5th regarding a financial bailout package proposed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

As reported by the Associated Press, the Chief of the Council of Europe has stated that the referendum, which was called by the Greek government on June 28th, does not meet international democratic standards.

According to the Council of Europe, international standards call for at least two weeks’ notice before a referendum to allow for adequate public discussion. The question put to voters should be clear, and international observers should be invited to monitor the voting.

The referendum was called with less than one week’s notice, and the question put to voters is one of the most confusing referendum questions I have ever read:

“Should the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the June 25 eurogroup and consisting of two parts, which form their single proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled ‘Reforms for the completion of the Current Program an Beyond’, and the second ‘Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis’.”

The question alone is confusing enough, and that’s before reading the agreement plan, which few voters will do and even fewer will understand.

The haste in which this referendum was called reminds me a bit of the referendum in Crimea that was also panned for being illegitimate. It appears to me to be more about a government seeking political cover than a genuine effort to seek meaningful public input.

With all the problems Greece is facing lately, the last thing that will help them is a rushed, poorly organized referendum with a fundamental lack of credibility. But as of now, the referendum is still on and Europe and the rest of the world await the results.

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