A First Reading of the Referendum




A first interpretation of the referendum will reveal the following: The “NO” is a clear victory and can be translated as a clear mandate for the prime minister who took a heavy weight on his shoulders to represent the initiative. It was proven that the polls, in their first attempt to measure public opinion, failed. They may have plenty of excuses (not enough time, etc.) but the neck and neck fight of Friday and the small lead of “NO” on Saturday were both disproven. However, they offered other useful insights, such as the effects that the capital controls had on the prime minister’s speeches.

It seems that the “NO” vote, besides the parties that supported it, permeated to the other parties, more than the “YES” vote permeated supporters of the “NO” parties, showing a need to state disapproval of the long-standing negative environment.

It was clear that there were multiple interpretations and starting points for those who voted “NO,” whereas for the “YES” voters the question was clearly about Greece’s position in Europe. This shows us that the opposition didn’t manage to get their interpretation of the referendum out, and there are many reasons.

From a communication standpoint I will risk taking the position that the private TV channels over-supported the “YES,” while in reality they helped the “NO” vote. At the same time, the other side’s communication was more focused on the Internet and social media, as well as through more direct channels and, of course, with the prime minister as the main spokesperson, and was more successful.

Even if we accept that the polls were not precise, 75 percent, which polls showed in favor of the euro, is a percentage that cannot be ignored, even if it remains a polling fact and not public decision.

From a political standpoint, the prime minister himself has been given most of the credit for the win with his critical appearances. He has gained momentum and, with this result in his pocket, will travel towards a new deal: If he brings a clearly better deal, he will gain recognition, will easily overcome any reactions from inside his party and will get it voted in quickly. If there is a similar deal to that which the lenders offered, the referendum will be considered a dangerous political maneuver, with its only reason for existence to overcome internal reactions from SYRIZA. That can be considered a positive, (because it avoided entering an adventure), but on the other hand, is an admission of weakness to enforce one’s opinion in the interior. If there is no deal (because the proposed one is worse), it will prove that the referendum did not create the political capital that the government claimed it would, and the people who cried wolf will likely be proven correct.

In any case, the big loser of this referendum is the old political system that was the face of “YES,” but had the opposite result. The people who were called to action have clearly been negatively earmarked, since they caused the following thought: “If they’re voting YES, I’ll vote NO.” I believe that the result will cause more turbulence than the result of the January elections, at least in New Democracy.

The next days/weeks will be difficult, and would be regardless of the result. Let us hope that the referendum, with all the technical aspects it had, will create a culture among the people and will be taken into account on other topics, such as education, interpersonal relationships, the relation of state and church, etc.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost Greece and was translated into English.