What is the state of Greek democracy since the economic crisis? CES Visiting Scholar Dimitri Sotiropoulos assesses the effects of populism and corruption on democracy in Greece today.
The economic crisis which struck Greece in 2010 had multiple negative economic and social effects and has probably negatively affected the functioning of democracy as well. As is well known, in exchange for being rescued from sovereign default, Greece signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with its international lenders in 2010, 2012, and 2015. The MoUs stipulated that the Greek government would receive tranches of the three corresponding rescue packages on condition that it would implement austerity and reforms in a vast range of public policies, including fiscal management of the State, pensions, incomes, labour relations, market competition, and public administration. Essentially, policy formulation and decision-making in a vast range of policy sectors was to a large extent taken away from the hands of elected government and parliament and passed on to the ‘Troika’, namely the representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. This is typical today in situations in which heavily indebted countries, at the brink of insolvency, ask for foreign aid. It is a phenomenon that also reveals the pressures exerted on national governments by forces of globalization, as explained by D. Rodrik (2011) in his trilemma: democracy, national sovereignty, and global economic integration are mutually incompatible in the sense that, for any given country today, only two out of these three aims are fully and simultaneously compatible. In other words, depending on the situation at hand, democracy can be circumscribed.