A Short History of Modern Greece
Ephesus After Antiquity: A Late Antique, Byzantine and Turkish City
Ambassador MacVeagh Reports: Greece 1933-1947
The Origins of the Cold War in the Near East: Great Power Conflict and Diplomacy in Iran, Turkey, and Greece
The Greek World
The Struggle for Greece 1941-1949
To a chorus of political mudslinging and inflammatory editorials provided by Athens’s volatile daily press, Greece is moving toward a fall election between the two perennial elements of Hellenic society—the conservative-authoritarian and the demagogic-liberal. On the right, George Rallis, the incumbent premier, has been the leader of Constantine Karamanlis’s New Democracy party ever since Karamanlis himself was, by the narrowest of squeaks, elevated from the premiership to the presidency in 1979. As long ago as the summer of 1975 the opposition had predicted this move, if ever Karamanlis were to feel his political base threatened,1 and the prediction came true, with Rallis playing Pompidou to Karamanlis’s de Gaulle.
The candidate of the left, Andreas Papandreou, founder of the radical Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), former Berkeley economist, ideologically ambivalent, a master of public rhetoric, is regarded by many as a power-hungry political saltimbanque. He and Rallis are natural, almost archetypal opponents. Anyone with a sense of the Greek past will feel on familiar ground here. It is like the rivalry of Charilaos Trikoupis and Theodore Deliyannis, who for the last two decades of the nineteenth century alternated as leaders somewhat in the manner of Gladstone and Disraeli. The parallel, indeed, can be taken further. New Democracy’s economic program is historically reminiscent of Trikoupis’s methods, while Papandreou, like Deliyannis, certainly goes in for “demagogic exploitation of Greek irredentism.” 2 Earlier still one thinks of oligarchs against democrats, Cimon versus Ephialtes. Is this a scholar’s illusion, or does Greek political history really repeat itself to this degree?
The current scene certainly does tempt one to more or less plausible ancient parallels. In 1974, after the overnight collapse of Brigadier Ioannides’s totalitarian regime3—a result chiefly of the Cyprus debacle, in which a right-wing group working on loannides’s orders clumsily failed to assassinate Archbishop Makarios4—Karamanlis returned to Athens. He was, understandably, given a hero’s reception (joined by many quick-change artists who had hitherto backed the junta), and had an enormous bank of goodwill on which to draw for the immediate political future. This for the most part he used tolerantly and carefully, although the problems of the vast, polluted, overbuilt, and corrupt Athenian megalopolis remained intractable. Now, seven years later—the length of the Colonels’ repressive dictatorship—there are signs, not least after the elections of November 1977 (when New Democracy’s share of the vote fell from 54 to 42 percent), that the account may be close to overdrawn. Karamanlis, like Trikoupis, aimed for long-term economic development, primarily by getting Greece into the Common Market. Whether he was right or not remains to be seen; but short-term economic hardships and uncomfortable adjustments were as inevitable as they were predictable, and Papandreou has been making the most of them, wearing his economic hat when he does so.
In Greece more than most other places, political gratitude maintains its sense of favors to come. Karamanlis has escaped, as it were, by apotheosis: but Rallis may well be pondering the story Plutarch tells of how…
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