History of Greece

The Constitutional Government and the Military Regime

During the years 1950 and 1951 the greek government proved highly unstable until the ratification of the new constitution and elections of 1952 with which the Marshal Papagos became prime minister with a large majority. Greece thus became a founding member of the United Nations, and in 1951 was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). On the death of Papagos in 1955, Constantine Karamanlis succeeded, the National Radical Union, whose party increased the majority in subsequent elections (1956, 1958, 1961).

Under Papagos and Karamanlis, the Greek economy improved considerably, despite a series of disastrous earthquakes in 1953-54 that saw the United States still provide significant economic and military aid to Greece. In 1954 Greece signed an alliance with Turkey and Yugoslavia, but friction with Turkey (and also with Great Britain) soon re-proposed for the issue of sovereignty of Cyprus, whose majority population is ethnically Greek, and continued even after the independence of Cyprus in 1960.

In the 1963 elections, despite his party had won the vast majority of the votes in Parliament, George Papandreou failed to get the vote of confidence for his government and new elections were held in 1964. This time the Center Union gained a majority of seats and Papandreou became prime minister. Also in 1964, Paul died and was succeeded by his son, Constantine II. In mid-1965, General George Grivas accused Papandreou's son (Andreas, an economist who had taught in the United States) to facilitate a secret group of army officers led by the left. Similar charges were brought against both Papandreous also by the Minister of Defense.

In the uproar that ensued, Constantine forced the resignation of George Papandreou, who had long been an opponent of the monarchy. After a period of uncertainty, in September of 1965, a new government headed by Stefanos Stephanopoulos was formed. This government fell in December of 1965, and Constantine authorized Ioannis Paraskevopoulos to form an extra-parliamentary government pending elections set for May 1967. Paraskevopoulos gained the support of George Papandreou and Panayotis Kanellopoulos, the leader of the radical National Union, but was forced to resign in March 1967 and was replaced as prime minister by Kanellopoulos.

Before the elections (which the Center Union seemed likely to win) should occur, some army officers staged right April 21, 1967 coup, claiming an imminent Communist establishment in Greece. Constantine Kollias was then appointed Prime Minister, but the real power was held by three army officers, George Papadopoulos, Gregory Stylianos Spandidakis and Patakos: was the so-called "regime" or "dictatorship of the Colonels" (το καθεστώς των Συνταγματαρχών), known also as "The Junta" (η Χούντα), which lasted until 1974.

During the Regime of Colonels, many liberal and leftist politicians were placed under arrest, and strict controls were established on the life of the Greeks. After a failed coup against (December 1967), Constantine II went into exile. Shortly thereafter, General George Zoitakis was made regent, and Papadopoulos and Patakos after their resignation from the army, became, respectively, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Some clandestine opposition groups were organized in Greece, and a large international protest against the dictatorial ways of the new regime took hold. In 1968, a new constitution that reduced dramatically expanding the power of the monarchy to the prime minister was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum. The controls on the life of the Greeks were the lightest, and most political prisoners were freed in early 1970. In 1972, Papadopoulos, by then the most powerful person in the country, also assumed the post of regent. In May 1973, members of the navy staged a coup but failed. In June 1973 the monarchy fell and Greece became a presidential republic.

After this move was also approved by popular referendum, Papadopoulos became provisional president, and Spyros Markezinis replaced him as Prime Minister. In an attempt to remove traces of military rule, and therefore to obtain a greater international consensus, the new order in Greece for new elections planned for 1974. However, November 25, 1973, Papadopoulos was ousted in a military coup led by Lt. Gen. Phaedon Gizikis, who became president.


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