How fair was the referendum?

Many in Britain are questioning the result of the Brexit referendum. A petition calling for a second referendum on EU membership has gathered more than three million signatures. The old have ruined the future of the young with their vote, some commentators argue. Others criticise that Brexit voters are being depicted negatively in the media.

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El País (ES) /

Pensioners have ruined the future of the young

In the Brexit referendum the older generation made a decision that will mainly affect the young, El País laments:

“They can't believe that they will no longer be able to move around freely in Europe as they have done up to now, that their lives will be trapped in the metaphor of an island closed in on itself. And all because the old are afraid. But this generation gap has become manifest not only in the United Kingdom with the Brexit. There is also a major generation gap in the countries hit by the crisis. In Greece, Portugal and Spain the young are the big losers of the crisis and are seeing their future destroyed by political decisions taken by the older generation. The previous generations experienced social ascent. They created the welfare state. The young must now fight for their future in a highly competitive, increasingly deregulated world in which the social institutions that protect them against life's adversities are in permanent crisis.”

Delfi (LT) /

Don't make scapegoats of the elderly

The accusation that older voters have doomed the young with their Brexit vote referendum is preposterous, columnist Vladimiras Laučius fumes on the web portal Delfi:

“This rhetoric is simply nauseous, and demotes Brexit voters to the status of second-class citizens. As if the old were going to die anyway and the future of Britain and the EU should not depend on them. Just what is this classification of people - useless seniors on the hand and high-quality young people on the other - supposed to mean? The same liberals who - sometimes after smoking a joint - detect discrimination at the drop of a hat are now cold-heartedly discussing whether the old people aren't an obstacle to progress. Perhaps they should simply be left to die, after which another referendum can be organised. Congratulations to these times in which the old slogan 'Jews out!' has made way for 'Old people out!'”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

A victory of demagogy and populism

The outcome of the EU referendum is worrying because it represents the victory of the wrong values, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy observes in the Irish Examiner:

“The historic Brexit vote marks a victory not of the people but of populism. Not of democracy but of demagogy. It is a victory of the hard right over the moderate right and of the radical over the liberal left. It is a victory of xenophobia ... It is the victory of fusty England over an England open to the world and fully in touch with its glorious past. It is the defeat of the Other before the puffed up I, the defeat of complexity before the dictatorship of the simplistic. … Abroad, it is a victory for Donald Trump, who was one of the first, if not the first, to welcome the historic vote, and for Vladimir Putin, whose dream and whose plan - this cannot be repeated too loudly or too often - has long been the break-up of the European Union.”

openDemocracy (GB) /

An undemocratic referendum

The Brexit referendum was undemocratic, political scientist Alfred Moore critices in the blog OpenDemocracy:

“A decision of this magnitude should require a clear, strong and stable majority. The procedure should be designed to generate such a majority. And it has failed. For one thing, the majority is not clear. Did the UK really vote for Brexit? It's clear that England did. But England is not the UK. For England to decide a UK constitutional question without a formal requirement to meet the majority threshold in all the affected home nations is democratically unacceptable. It is quite rightly being recognised as unacceptable by the people of Scotland. … This referendum is not worthy of our respect.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

A discrediting of grass roots democracy

The referendum is being used by many to discredit grass roots movements, Zeit Online fears:

“Everything that comes from below will be construed as coming from a mob. In an attempt to protect themselves and defend themselves, the elites will seal themselves off more and more, instead of seeking constructive confrontations and asking the right questions - including questions about their own legitimacy. ... The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, and the exploitation and destruction of our earth is taking on increasingly threatening proportions. But those who have expropriated the world's resources do nothing but help themselves and park their ships in a safe haven. Meanwhile the 'simple' citizens who recognise the problems where they arise and want to fight them with grass-roots democracy are being mistrusted and marginalised.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Happy ending still possible

The last word on the Brexit has not been stated, the Financial Times believes, and hopes that as in a good TV series the drama will be continued with a second referendum:

“Any long-term observer of the EU should be familiar with the shock referendum result. In 1992 the Danes voted to reject the Maastricht treaty. The Irish voted to reject both the Nice treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon treaty in 2008. And what happened in each case? The EU rolled ever onwards. The Danes and the Irish were granted some concessions by their EU partners. They staged a second referendum. And the second time around they voted to accept the treaty. ... There is a moderate middle in both Britain and Europe that should be capable of finding a deal that keeps the UK inside the EU. Like all good dramas, the Brexit story has been shocking, dramatic and upsetting. But its ending is not yet written.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Repeat referendum can't be ruled out

The negative consequences of leaving the EU could persuade the British to repeat the Brexit referendum, The Irish Independent believes:

“As those in Britain who voted to leave read report after report of jobs moving to Ireland (and other EU countries) over the months and years ahead, they may come to think again about their decision. As the employment effects are felt and some of the promises of the Leave campaign are shown to be nonsense, the campaign already underway for a rerun of the referendum will only gather momentum. ... In these incredibly uncertain times, nothing can be ruled out.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Fatal decisions are also irreversible

There can be no question of holding a second referendum despite the calls by millions of British citizens, Lidové noviny believes:

“What has happened cannot be undone. Unfortunately that also goes for political actions, be they elections or referendums. Democracy is based on rules, which means that even if millions of people on the British Isles want a second referendum, such a scenario is out of the question. These desperate souls must be reminded that some of our decisions are fatal and can't be reversed in a second attempt. A referendum can't be exchanged for another like an unwanted Christmas gift. Furthermore you can't do it with calls on the social networks, no matter how urgent they are. To be optimistic we should believe that the British will get the situation under control. We, meanwhile, will learn a lesson in the process.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Referenda are a risky tool

Such plebiscites seduce voters into making the wrong decision for emotional reasons, as is clear from the fact that many Brits now regret the Brexit vote, Hürriyet Daily News believes:

“A referendum is not an election. It is one of the most backward political tools that mankind has found, where a nation votes for their strategic future without a duration - like the term of an election - with agitated, momentary feelings. Cameron has paid a high price, not only for himself but for the U.K. as well, for accepting the populist challenges of his rivals like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. ... Now Brits have already started to talk about another referendum ... With or without another referendum caused by Bregret, the stones have started to roll and it seems they will not become still until new political balances are found in Europe. But the bottom line is that referenda are a risky tool to play with in politics, especially when about strategic matters.”

Webcafé (BG) /

The slow death of a wonderful idea

A wave of referendums on EU issues will ensue because the politicians are unable to make the decisions on their own, the online portal Webcafé laments:

“It was just a matter of time before this Union began to collapse. This Union whose day begins with a leisurely breakfast, in the course of which a comma from one report is inserted into another and which ends with the convening of an 'emergency' summit in two weeks' time. … The EU is viewed less and less as an attractive community of values and ideas and more and more as a community of compromises and deals. … If the political leadership is not in a position to make decisions the voters will do it for them, led by base nationalist sentiment, hatred and distrust. This is the slow death of the otherwise wonderful idea of building a common European home.”

More opinions

L'Express (FR) / 27 June 2016
  Direct democracy only results in egoistic decisions (in French)