Greece Alexis Tsipras.jpg
Photograph: EPA/PANTELIS SAITAS

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' referendum-by-the-people proposal was met with criticism Tuesday, with opponents calling it an attempt to divert attention from high unemployment rates and the country's poor financial situation.

Speaking in Athens on Monday, Tsipras proposed changes to the constitution that would allow referendums to be held on any non-finance-related topic if at least 500,000 signatures are collected.

Tsipras' proposal would also extend to referendums on the country's laws, excluding those related to finance, if at least a million signatures are reached.

Currently new referendums require constitutional amendments and are only possible if suggested by the government. Tsipras suggested the proposal take effect next year and could also include surrendering sovereign rights to an international confederation.

Tsipras went on to say that he feels the president of Greece should have the authority to deem laws unconstitutional and send them to parliament and the courts for reconsideration.

Greece needs to renew its political system, the Greek premier added. Despite an unprecedented period of democratic rule following the fall of Greek military junta in 1974, Tsipras said, the system still allows abuse and nepotism under the current constitution.

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