Staff Editorial: Greek prime minister gambles political future with global economy

Greece's ongoing debt crisis appears to be coming to a thrilling and possibly catastrophic conclusion this week, as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has decided to put the latest bailout to a national referendum.

Long story short, eurozone leaders approved another bailout last week – worth €130 billion ($178.9 billion) – to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts, with the condition that further austerity measures be implemented. These measures, however, have caused rioting and considerable discontent among the Greek populace.

Facing a confidence vote this Friday, Papandreou has decided to let the Greek voters decide whether to accept this bailout. If such a vote should fail, Greece will almost definitely default, continue to drag down the European economy and possibly be forced to leave the eurozone. Additionally, he did so without consulting many high ranking members of his government, including his finance minister.

In doing so, Papandreou has decided to use this bailout, Europe's economic future and the entire global economy purely for his own political gain. Although it is not unprecedented for politicians to take such drastic action for political gain, we find Papandreou's actions to be incredibly shallow and blatantly opportunistic.

Similar sentiments are being echoed by various other world leaders, including European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who has stated that stability within Greece is "critically important" for the measures to be implemented. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, representing the eurozone's two strongest remaining economies, met with Papandreou on the eve of the G-20 summit in Cannes, France, agreeing to deny Greece further aid until it decides on its future in the euro.

Regardless of the referendum's outcome, the vote adds weeks of uncertainty to an economy clamoring for stability while simultaneously boosting Papandreou's personal political fortunes. If it passes, Greece receives a delayed bailout amid terrible economic chaos. If it fails, which it likely will given the strong opposition to further austerity measures, Greece will either have to leave the eurozone – marking the biggest blow for the common currency in its decade-long existence – or will continue to drag down Europe's economy. Without further action, the much larger economies of Spain and Italy could also collapse, while economically stronger countries like France and Germany lack the resources to bail them out. Furthermore, Europe's continued financial woes will further harm its major trading partners, mainly China and the United States.

In short, Papandreou might be risking the global economy just to save his own neck, and we find that absolutely deplorable.