Greece History – The Return to Democracy

The clear electoral victory of Karamanlis and the result of the popular referendum called immediately after (December 8, 1974) sanctioned the definitive abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a presidential republic. In June 1975 the new Constitution was approved and the first President of the Republic, Constantine Tsatsos, was elected. Thanks to the moderate politics of Karamanlis, a climate of security and stability prevailed in the country; in 1979 it was decided to join the EEC, operational since 1981, and in 1980 the re-entry into NATO was also approved. The Greek government then began to re-establish good relations with the Balkan countries, the USSR and the Arab world. However, the dispute with Turkey over Cyprus, on the borders in the Aegean Sea, scattered with Greek islands near the Turkish coasts, remained unresolved. on the Muslim populations of Thrace and on the assets of the Greeks extradited from Turkey. The negative economic trend was also a cause for concern, arousing discontent among workers. The early legislative elections of 1977 marked a downsizing of the consensus towards the premier’s party, New Democracy; Instead, Andreas Papandreu’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) established itself: thanks to his populist promises of radical social changes and his strong personal charisma, Papandreu conquered, to the detriment of the centrist and communist formations, the urban middle class, the workers and farmers. Upon the expiry of Tsatsos’ mandate, Karamanlis left the post of president of the majority party and prime minister, to move to the presidency of the Republic (May 5, 1980). The leadership of the party was entrusted to Ghiorgos Rallis, also a member of ND, who formed a new government. ND’s decline in popularity was manifested by his defeat in the 1981 legislative elections, won by PASOK. Karamanlis ensured the handover of powers in unexceptionable conditions of legality and tranquility.

Papandreu then constituted the first socialist government in the history of Greece and attempted, but failed to complete, to introduce some of the promised changes in its ambitious program; the greatest failure was recorded in the management of the economy, for which he was forced to adopt severe austerity measures. In terms of foreign policy, Greece entered a period of continuous friction with its allies, but showing pragmatism and flexibility, the government took more moderate and pro-European positions, setting aside the first ideas of PASOK, which advocated the exit of the country by NATO and the EEC. In relations with the United States, despite an ostentatious anti-Americanism, there was never any dramatic breakdown, not even in moments of greatest tension and accusations against the Greek rulers of excessive acquiescence towards Middle Eastern terrorism, which repeatedly transformed Greece into the scene of bloody attacks. Despite a course of normal cohabitation between the moderate president of the Republic and the socialist premier, at the end of the mandate of Karamanlis (1985), PASOK denied him a second one and the elderly politician resigned; in his place was elected, by the parliamentary majority of PASOK and with the support of the left, the judge of the Supreme Court Christos Sartzetakis. at the end of the mandate of Karamanlis (1985) the PASOK denied him a second one and the elderly politician resigned; in his place was elected, by the parliamentary majority of PASOK and with the support of the left, the judge of the Supreme Court Christos Sartzetakis. at the end of the mandate of Karamanlis (1985) the PASOK denied him a second one and the elderly politician resigned; in his place was elected, by the parliamentary majority of PASOK and with the support of the left, the judge of the Supreme Court Christos Sartzetakis.

In the 1985 legislative elections and in the 1986 administrative elections, PASOK registered a slight decline in consensus, while ND, under the leadership of Kostantinos Mitsotakis, achieved a substantial recovery of its electoral influence. Overwhelmed by the economic crisis and the accusations of serious political-financial scandals directed against Papandreu and four of his ministers, PASOK was defeated in the 1989 elections. However, ND, not having won the required absolute majority of seats in Parliament, had to ally with the Communists of the Coalition of the Left and Progress, giving life to a provisional government, which, after having guaranteed the referral to a special court of the PASOK leaders accused of embezzlement, called new elections for November of the same year. Faced with a new oneelectoral impasse and a serious collapse of public finances, a government of technicians was resorted to with the external support of ND, PASOK and the Coalition of the left, which also had a short life.

In the 1990 elections, ND managed to secure a majority. Mitsotakis then formed a single-color government, while at the end of Sartzetakis’ mandate he was re-elected president of the Karamanlis Republic. The government chaired by Mitsotakis included among its first initiatives the signing of an eight-year military cooperation agreement with the United States, which reaffirmed the close relationship between the two countries and kept two of the four US military bases in operation on the Greek territory. This agreement was criticized by the left forces, who were even more strongly opposed to the restrictive economic policy desired by Mitsotakis and above all to the government’s plans to limit the right to strike. Protests and strikes became very intense between 1992 and 1993.

The widespread popular discontent was thus at the basis of ND’s electoral defeat in the early political consultations of October 1993. A new government was then formed led by Andreas Papandreu, who put a stop to the privatization program initiated by his predecessor but sharply attenuated the perplexities that he and his party had expressed in previous years about Greece’s participation in the European integration process. In March 1995 Papandreu favored the election to the presidency of the Republic of Kostantinos Stefanopulos, former minister of ND. In terms of foreign policy, the government committed itself, with positive results, to the resumption of diplomatic relations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which had been extremely critical since 1991, when Greece had opposed the recognition of the Macedonian state born following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, for fear of possible territorial claims against Greek Macedonia. At the end of 1995 the executive’s action was affected by the numerous controversies that arose around the role assumed by Papandreu’s wife, Dimitra Liani, in the main decisions of the elderly leader, who was forced to resign in January 1996.

To replace him in the role of head of government was the socialist exponent Costas Simitis, who for some months had taken a critical position towards Papandreu, resigning as Minister of Industry and supporting the need for a profound renewal of the party. While relations with Turkey were experiencing new moments of tension, due to the continuing dispute over the delimitation of territorial waters in the Aegean Sea and the conflicts between the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus, the executive launched a series of economic reforms necessary to the entry of Greece into the European Monetary Union. Simitis strengthened the austerity measures in the economic field, especially after the outcome of the legislative elections of September 1996, which recorded a growth in the consensus of the left opposition, but at the same time they confirmed the socialist majority in Parliament. The new government chaired by Simítis set as priority objectives the containment of inflation and the reduction of the public deficit, in order to comply with the criteria established for participation in the Economic and Monetary Union. The austerity measures, with heavy cuts in social spending, still caused numerous protest strikes, both in the private and public sectors.

The Simitis government, reconfirmed in 2000, led Greece to join the single European currency in January 2001 while, on the international level, the rapprochement with Turkey was sanctioned in 1999 by the fall of the Athens veto on Turkey’s entry into the European Union and in 2002 by a historic agreement between the two countries for the construction of a gas pipeline to supply Greece. Simitis, however, found himself facing growing discontent as the rigorous policy to join the euro area had had the downside of slowing economic growth. In December 2003 he left the presidency of PASOK and was replaced by Ghiorgos Papandreu, son of Andreas. The early elections of March 2004 saw the socialist defeat and the affirmation of ND, led by Costas Karamanlis, Konstantinos’ grandson. The new government launched an ambitious plan to modernize and sell the productive sectors that remained publicly owned, but had to face a social and economic situation characterized by widespread unemployment and high inflation rates. In February 2005, Karolos Papoulias, a socialist exponent and former foreign minister, was elected president. In February 2007 the government, after risking parliamentary mistrust, relaunched its commitment to an accelerated course of reform. However, the deterioration of the economic situation raised widespread discontent, which in 2008 and 2009 resulted in a succession of strikes and protests and finally in the resignation of the government. After the elections won by PASOK, Papandreu became Prime Minister.

Greece History - The Return to Democracy