01/09/2015 11:41 am ET Updated Mar 11, 2015

Greek Tragedy II

The latest Greek crisis, again threatening stability in Europe and beyond, is not principally financial. At any rate not yet. Instead, it stems from a serious anomaly that can be traced to the two consecutive referenda that summarily abolished the monarchy in Greece four decades ago.

First, under the military government in July 1973 and hastily rubber-stamped next by the post-dictatorship Constantine Caramanlis government in October 1974. Tragically ever since, the Greek people have been "taken for a ride": consistently denied the privilege of directly electing democratically their president. Predictably, Greece nowadays is paying the price for this shortsightedness. A fatal mistake, too, that lies in the core of today's historic impasse. Hopefully not at the expense of Europe as well.

It is in this decisive context that the main opposition party, Syriza, heavily contributed to the three recent abortive attempts in parliament to appoint a new ceremonial president for the next five years and succeeded in the end to trigger the snap general elections it had obsessively pursued all along -- now due on 25 January. Which, of course, no one else in Greece or elsewhere had wished to provoke -- particularly at the staggering cost of €2b and at so critical a moment as well.

Maximizing fear and fresh uncertainty is anathema to Greece's fragile recovery. More deeply worrying, however, seems to be that lessons have hardly been learned so far. Namely, that denying a proud people the right to choose themselves their country's Head of State would in time carry a stiff penalty -- perhaps even an existential one.


Nicos E. Devletoglou, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Athens, is author of the books Academia in Anarchy: An Economic Diagnosis (Basic Books) written jointly with Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics James Buchanan; and Consumer Behaviour: An Experiment in Analytical Economics (Harper and Row).