OPINION

A terrible legacy

A terrible anniversary is upon us: that of the April 21, 1967 coup d?etat when the military regime seized power. It?s terrible not just because of the events that unfolded, but also because of the way the junta permanently warped the Greek political system and society.

The worst effect of the dictatorship was that the disgust it evoked in citizens helped cleanse the former regime of its sins. The restoration of democracy in 1974 was in effect a restoration of the politicians who had undermined the system that emerged in the aftermath of World War II and the Civil War.

They returned, mostly from Europe, without having to answer for their lamentable pasts, smug and arrogant. Only the return of the former King Constantine was put to the people via a referendum, with New Democracy remaining ?neutral? and all other parties participating actively against the monarchy.

Constantine bore the brunt because he had sworn in the colonels? government and had failed to overthrow the regime in the countercoup of December 13, 1967. He was deemed inadequate as a co-conspirator, as were all those who ultimately failed to overthrow the junta and went on to play some role in the transition to democracy. All this was for the sake of appearances, of course, as the monarchy simply had no place in the new state of affairs shaped by the political system in 1974.

The emancipation of Greek politicians from the crown was also accompanied by the tactic of pandering to public opinion. The result is that any restrictive law that would allow society to function smoothly is now seen as a restriction of freedom. Greece has become the freest — some would say unruliest — country in Europe, though it is certainly not the most democratic in the conventional sense of the term.

The dictators also undid any sense of discipline and hierarchy by turning against the highest echelons of the military and the crown. This is another part of their despicable legacy that Greek society embraced and continues to apply with consistency to this day.

There were those who led the revolt of April 21, the self-made leaders. But the post-dictatorship regime reacted to them as well, by organizing itself into a system of baronies based on family ties. For more than half a century, Greek politics has been dominated by the same names. The monarchy was abolished and succeeded by an oligarchy of political families, a unique phenomenon in modern European history. However, the cycle seems to be over. We are not living in dramatic or heroic times. We are simply watching the post-dictatorship system collapse.