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Greece - Politics

After liberation, Greece experienced a bitter civil war between Royalist and Communist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between its Rightists and largely Communist Leftists for the next 30 years. The next 20 years were characterized by marginalization of the left in the political and social spheres but also by a significant economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan.

From 1952 to late 1963, Greece was governed by conservative parties--the Greek Rally of Marshal Alexandros Papagos and its successor, the National Radical Union (ERE) of the late Constantine Karamanlis. In 1963, the Center Union Party of George Papandreou was elected and governed until July 1965. It was followed by a succession of unstable coalition governments.

On April 21, 1967, just before scheduled elections, a group of colonels led by Col. George Papadopoulos seized power in a coup d'état. The junta suppressed civil liberties, established special military courts, and dissolved political parties. Several thousand political opponents were imprisoned or exiled to remote Greek islands. As had occurred so many times before in modern Greek history, a period of constitutional government was to be succeeded by military rule. Although the actual coup took nearly all observers by surprise, the crisis of Greek parliamentary democracy had long been too readily apparent. Indeed, the turbulence of the Greek political scene had become a kind of running story in the international press for close to two years preceding the eventual colonels’ junta.

Across the ideological spectrum there was common agreement that the Greek parliamentary system was inherently unstable: the Right spoke of the threat of communist subversion; the Center of the machinations of the Palace; the Left of a reactionary regime masked by a parliamentary façade. Moreover, intellectual opinion of various persuasions was especially prone to define Greek politics as completely subject to perfidious American influence.

In November 1973, following an uprising of students at the Athens Polytechnic University, General Dimitrios Ioannides replaced Papadopoulos and tried to continue the dictatorship. Gen. Ioannides' attempt in July 1974 to overthrow Archbishop Makarios, the President of Cyprus, brought Greece to the brink of war with Turkey, which invaded Cyprus and occupied part of the island. Senior Greek military officers withdrew their support from the junta, which toppled. Leading citizens persuaded Karamanlis to return from exile in France to establish a government of national unity until elections could be held. Karamanlis' newly organized party, New Democracy (ND), won elections held in November 1974, and he became Prime Minister.

Following the 1974 referendum, the parliament approved a new constitution and elected Constantine Tsatsos as president of the republic. In the parliamentary elections of 1977, New Democracy again won a majority of seats. In May 1980, Prime Minister Karamanlis was elected to succeed Tsatsos as president. George Rallis was then chosen party leader and succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister. January 1, 1981, Greece became the 10th member of the European Community (now the European Union--EU).

In parliamentary elections held on October 18, 1981, Greece elected its first socialist government when the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), led by Andreas Papandreou, won 172 of 300 seats. On March 29, 1985, after Prime Minister Papandreou declined to support President Karamanlis for a second term, Supreme Court Justice Christos Sartzetakis was elected president by the Greek parliament.

Greece had two rounds of parliamentary elections in 1989; both produced weak coalition governments with limited mandates. Party leaders withdrew their support in February 1990, and elections were held on April 8. In the April 1990 election, ND won 150 seats and subsequently gained 2 others. After Mitsotakis fired his first Foreign Minister--Andonis Samaras--in 1992, Samaras formed his own political party, Political Spring. A split between Mitsotakis and Samaras led to the collapse of the ND government and new elections in September 1993.

On January 17, 1996, following a protracted illness, Prime Minister Papandreou resigned and was replaced as Prime Minister by former Minister of Industry Constantine Simitis. In elections held in September 1996, Constantine Simitis was elected Prime Minister. PASOK won 162 seats, New Democracy, 108. In April 2000, Simitis and PASOK won again by a narrow margin, gaining 158 seats to ND's 125. New elections were required no later than spring 2004. Parliamentary elections were held March 8, 2004; Konstantinos Karamanlis, the nephew of the former prime minister, became prime minister. Karalos Papoulias was elected as President in February, 2005.

Parliamentary elections were held March 8, 2004, and ND won 165 seats to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement's (PASOK) 117; Konstantinos Karamanlis, ND leader and the nephew of a former prime minister, became Prime Minister. Karolos Papoulias was elected President by parliament in February 2005.

Immediately after the September 2007 elections, the Greek political scene witnessed an unprecedented wave of deliberations and realignments. The eruption of an open crisis in the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) became a central issue. The crisis has been smouldering since 2004, when that party lost governmental power after staying 11 consecutive years in office. This crisis has swept the whole two-party system of government that has been dominant in Greece from 1977 onwards, a period when the two main party poles, the “center-right” New Democracy (ND) party and the “centre-left” PASOK party, were crystallised.

The crisis of bipartisanism was an expression of the political weakness of the two governing parties. ND has begun to experience the wear and tear that stems from its conduct of governmental affairs, a conduct that has been registered as “antipopular”, “inconsistent” and “ineffective”. PASOK was characterised by an unprecedented “lack of a clear and distinct political mark” that resulted in the weakening of its position in the party system. On October 4, 2009, PASOK won an early parliamentary election with 160 seats to ND’s 91. PASOK leader George Papandreou succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister. On February 3, 2010, Papoulias was re-elected President by parliament with a majority of 266 votes out of 300. On November 11, 2011, Papandreou stepped down as prime minister to make way for a coalition government led by Lucas Papademos (PASOK).





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