An interior ministry bill concerning the "enhancement of direct and participational democracy through the conduction of a referendum" was tabled in parliament on Monday night, setting out the fundamental principles for the conduction of referenda in the framework of the Constitution.
The bill provides for two types of referenda.
The first category of referenda concerns critical national issues of foreign policy or defence and also all other matters concerning the country's economic, social and political life. This category requires a proposal by the government and approval by the absolute majority (151 votes) in the 300-member unicameral Greek parliament.
The second type of referendum concerns bills that have already been passed by parliament that regulate serious social matters, with the exception of finances. This category requires a proposal by 2/5ths of parliament (120 votes) and approval by 3/5ths (180 votes) of the House.
Not only political parties but also alliances of individuals, scientists, professionals or trade union organisations and every other social organisation of citizens may take part in the conduction of the referenda. Two Support Committees will be set up, one for and one against the subject of the referendum, with the above participating groups taking part in the committee representing their stance on the subject. Each committee will be allotted equal free time in the mass media to present their positions. The committees themselves will decide the distribution of the free time allotted to them among their own members.
The participating groups/parties in the conduction of a referendum will not be allotted state funding, while a ceiling will also be set for their expenditure as well as for their financing from physical entities, and funding will be prohibited from owners or publishers of daily or periodical publications of nationwide or local circulation or from owners of radio or television stations. The financial management of the above groups/parties will be subject to rules of publicity and supervision by the relevant parliamentary Standing Committee.
Further, the prohibitions concerning the public projection of messages provided in electoral legislation will also be in effect for the referenda.
The outcome of the referenda of both categories will be binding on the government provided a specific percentage of the electoral body has voted. The percentage for a referendum on an already legislated bill must be 50 percent of the number of registered voters. As regards the referenda on critical national issues, the Cabinet has decided that the percentage will be set out during the processing of the draft law by the relevant parliamentary committee.
ND opposed to referenda it says gov't is planning
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) on Tuesday said it was totally opposed to the conduction of referenda it said the government was planning, accusing the government of "suspicious and panic-stricken methodisations".
The statement, by ND press officer Yiannis Michelakis, came just a day after the interior ministry tabled in parliament a draft law, titled "enhancement of direct and participational democracy through the conduction of a referendum", that sets out procedures for calling and conducting two categories of referenda, one on "critical" national issues of foreign policy and defence and matters concerning the country's economic, social and political life, and the other on bills that have already been passed by parliament regulating serious social matters with the exception of finances.
Michelakis linked what he termed the preparation of the referenda with the current economic conjuncture, adding that "the tabling of the bill at the time that the government is pre-announcing new painful measures reveals suspicious haste".
He said that the bill "has no relation to any intention for enhancement of democracy nor is linked with the promotion of the necessary reforms, which we (ND) support", adding that the present conjuncture alone reveals that the bill is "fireworks aimed at disorienting the citizens from the huge everyday problems, the new tough measures being planned, the government's inefficiency and the impasses of the economic policy it is following".