[ Ed. note – Elections give people the illusion that they have some say in things. But as the writer of the piece below points out, elections are becoming increasingly meaningless in Western countries. ]
By Neil Clark
In January 2015, the Greek people, sick and tired of austerity and rapidly plummeting living standards, voted for Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. The Coalition of the Left, which had only been formed eleven years earlier, won 36.3 percent of the vote and 149 out of the Hellenic Parliament‘s 300 seats. The Greek people had reasonable hopes their austerity nightmare would end. The victory of Syriza was hailed by progressives across Europe.
Pressure was applied on Greece by ‘The Troika’ to accept onerous terms for a new bailout. Syriza went to the people in June 2015 to ask them directly in a national referendum if they should accept the terms.
“On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe, we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe,” Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared. The Greek people duly gave Tsipras the mandate he asked for, and rejected the bailout terms with 61.3 percent voting ‘No.’
Yet, just over two weeks after the referendum, Syriza accepted a bailout package that contained larger cuts in pensions and higher tax increases than the one on offer earlier.
The Greek people may as well have stayed at home on 27th June for all the difference their vote made.
Many supporters of Donald Trump in the US are no doubt thinking the same.
Trump won the election by attracting working-class ‘rust belt’ voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a ‘liberal interventionist’ foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a ‘clean break’ with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than ‘draining the swamp,’ The Donald has waded right into it.
The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House – sooner or later – will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail.
Brits too have had a lesson in the way ‘democracy’ works when people don’t vote the way the most powerful people in the establishment want them to. On June 23, 2016, rightly or wrongly, 52 percent voted to leave the EU. But 15 months on, the view that Britain will either never leave the EU or stay in it in all but name is growing. The government only sent off Article 50 in March, after the courts held that Brexit had to be initiated by Parliament.
Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU for a two-year ‘transition’ period after Britain is due to leave in 2019. It’s not hard to imagine the transition period will be indefinitely extended. “I’ve been voicing that fear since long before the prime minister’s dismal speech in Florence, and I see nothing to reassure me that the referendum result will be honored,”says Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express.
The odds of Britain still being in the EU in 2022 are now about 3-1. And they’re shortening all the time.
Again, is that what the people who voted for Brexit in 2016 wanted to happen? The issue here is not whether we think leaving the EU is a good idea, but how the referendum vote has not led to the results that people expected.
These are not the only examples of people not getting what they thought they had voted for. In 2008, the citizens of Ireland voted to reject the EU’s Lisbon treaty. Was that the end of the matter? Not at all. They were asked to vote again – a year later – and this time the EU got the desired outcome.
In May 2012, the Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande won a decisive victory in France’s Presidential elections. Like Syriza, he pledged to end austerity.
“I’m sure in a lot of European countries there is relief, hope that at last austerity is no longer inevitable.” He declared. But guess what. Hollande didn’t end austerity. Just a year later he was pushing through a fresh round of cuts.