The Greek elections saved the world for about 48 minutes

Fundamental failings remain.

The half-life of a European success is getting shorter and shorter. Last week's bailout of Spain (euphamistically referred to by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as "what happened on Saturday") saved the world for 48 hours, with everyone thinking all was good at Saturday lunchtime and realising that it was still messed-up by Monday. The results of the Greek elections look to have saved the world for 48 minutes.

The headlines (mostly written before the election was even declared, to be fair) declare Europe to have survived "a close call" and been granted "a stay of execution" as "Greece gives Europe a chance", and this morning economics correspondents are still filing pieces claiming Greek result buys Europe time.

For a while it looked like they may have been right. Spanish 10 year yields opened at 6.84, before falling in the first few minutes of the day to 6.817. Italian yields also dropped slightly, and the country's main stock index, the FTSE MIB was up over 1 per cent over Friday's close.

But by 8:49, the MIB was down to where it had been on Friday, and is now 1 per cent down. And by 9:14, the Spanish 10 year yields had rocketed up, not just to where they were, but to a new high of 7.12 (chart via FT alphaville):

The problem is, as we wrote this morning, that the election of New Democracy does nothing to solve the underlying crisis in Greece – nor does it take Spain off the hook. Both countries are in the throes of a full-blown (though strangely slo-mo) banking crisis, and Greece is additionally suffering under an austerity program which is unlikely to be sustainable, either politically or economically, while its relationship with the European Union remains unchanged.

Except for the replacement of PASOK with SYRIZA in the Greek two-party system, the victory for ND represented a return to the status quo. And, regardless of your opinion of the possible replacement for it, the status quo was kind of crap.

A trader is sad about something. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
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Let 2016 be the year that Ireland gives women the right to choose

As we commemorate and celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising next year, we must remember that while the constitution was hard fought for it cannot be static. 

There is mounting pressure for the Irish government to look into decriminalising abortion. It has been growing since Savita Halappanavar’s death three years ago in a hospital in Galway due to complications during pregnancy. She was refused an abortion because Irish law forbids it. Earlier this month Irish women tweeted the Taoiseach Enda Kenny about their periods using the #repealthe8th in an attempt to bring attention to the issue. Now last Friday, Amnesty International published a letter calling for the decriminalisation of abortion internationally, signed by 838 doctors, most importantly this included some of Ireland’s leading healthcare professionals. This is the perfect time for political parties to commit to holding a referendum on the issue if elected they are elected and form the next government in 2016.

One part of the Irish legislative process I have always been proud of is the use of referendum and bringing serious questions to the electorate. It protects the constitution from changing on political whims or based on the beliefs of whatever party is in government. As such it remains a document of the people, it was after all put to vote before it was instituted in 1937. It also passes issues, which have proved contentious and in other countries have relied on the sympathy of lawmakers, by popular consent. Same sex marriage was legalised in a beautiful display of support, 62% of the electorate came out to vote for equality. Social media was full of pictures of Irish people living abroad going home especially for the referendum.

There has previously been a number referendums on abortion and following Savita’s death, the  Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 was brought in which allowed abortion if the mother’s life was in danger. It was important and a sensible measure to bring in. However it resulted in serious splits and some contentious situations. Lucinda Creighton defied Fine Gael’s whip and found herself stripped of her ministry and ostracised, leading to the creation of her new party Renua Ireland. Creighton was recently asked if she would agree with aborting baby Hitler. This is the ridiculous side of the debate which doesn’t help either side. Many thought that the 2013 act was too quickly done and not properly explained or understood. A referendum is the best way to avoid this. The question can be explained properly and debated to give people access to more information. Once passed, it is done so with consent from a majority of the electorate and this makes it much more difficult to argue against its legitimacy than if it is forced through. The result is also binding regardless of the current government’s stance, you can have a second vote but you can’t force people to vote the other way.

Public support for legalising or extending abortion rights is there. A RedC poll for Amnesty International in July showed 67 per cent of people thought abortion should be decriminalised while 81 per cent thought it should be allowed in more situations. 45 per cent were in favour of abortion whenever a woman wanted it. It is not an overwhelming figure but if 45 per cent of people believe this should be instituted then they ought to be listened to and the question brought to the country.

Realistically, nothing will be done before the next election which is expected to be held in early 2016. However now is an excellent time for political parties to examine their stance on abortion and look at holding a referendum and making it part of their manifestoes. The new government will then be in a position to announce a new referendum on abortion as soon as they are in power. The last one was held in 2002, meaning that many young people particularly women at the height of their fertility have never actually had a say on this matter.

As we commemorate and celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising next year, we must remember that while the constitution was hard fought for it cannot be static. The world that its authors inhabited is not the same as the one we live in today. The constitution has changed to bring peace to Northern Ireland, to legalise divorce and same sex marriage, let 2016 be the year it changes to give women the freedom to choose.