Importance of Wording in a Referendum

Referendum’s seem to be the in thing this year. I was involved in the AV referendum earlier in the year. The House of Commons as recently as last week we had the debate over whether or not there should be a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU.

Now Greek Prime Minister has called a referendum on whether the country should accept the austerity measures imposed on it by the EU. So far the talk is that a referendum will be held either in December or January.

But speculation suggests that the Greek government is going to word the question in a manner that is likely to see the electorate opt to adopt the austerity measures imposed by the EU and continue its membership. The single currency Euro is something the Greeks want to keep and if rumours are to be believed then the question will be worded along the lines of whether to keep the Euro or not.

In a referendum I think it is more difficult to implement a change from the Status Quo and it is especially difficult to get people to say ‘yes’ to something. The onus is on the reformist campaign to convince people to adopt change and understand the question being asked.

As many people are more inclined to tick the ‘no’ box if they’re not sure about the question. For example I always tend to click the no or cancel option every time a message that I don’t understand appears on my computer. It’s only natural, if you have no interest and don’t understand a lot of the message dialog boxes that appear out of nowhere.

But while this may be the case in a country with voter apathy and disinterest, in Greece it is a different picture. The home of democracy, people of Greece take a great deal of interest in politics and are a lot more active.

The wording is still a significant issue, with Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy wanting to dictate the wording of the question in a referendum. They want a ‘do you want to leave the eurozone? Yes or no’. The Germans and French are also pushing for the referendum to be held early, with some reports now suggesting that a referendum will be held in the next 30 days, it is thought that the EU wants a resolution in the next few weeks.


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