Anniversaries, coincidences

At last week’s 29th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece, many people commented that for the past three decades our democratic system has functioned perfectly. It is worth trying to pinpoint those factors which contributed to what has been a successful outcome by Greek standards. There is no doubt that the person chiefly responsible for this achievement was the late Constantine Karamanlis, who not only bloodlessly reinstated democracy but also laid firm foundations for the new system and fortified it. The achievement was based on three pillars. First, the unimpeachable and final resolution of the form of government which has plagued Greece for more than two centuries. Second, the legalization of the Communist Left, which has since then participated as an equal partner in the democratic system. Third, ensuring the normal alternation of parties in power. But while the solution to the first two questions was one-off and final, the third is being questioned, especially at the moment. In the past, the regular alternation of parties in power in Greece was hindered by unlawful means – ballot rigging, pressure and coercion of voters. History will record such events and judge according to the circumstances of the time – dominated by antagonism and passions of the civil war or the East-West conflict. PASOK’s «Declaration of September 3,» its comfortable electoral victory in 1981 and New Democracy’s normal removal from power upturned both foreign and social policy choices reached earlier. The much-vaunted «cohabitation» (to 1985) of a president and premier from opposing camps was one of Karamanlis’s great contributions to the smooth operation of the State. But the third pillar is far from being considered given and stable nowadays as the procedure of smooth alternation is being questioned by way of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s sudden action and his concern to change the current electoral system. The attempt to hinder the regular alternation of parties in power cannot, in this writer’s view, be averted by a premature and unconstitutional resignation by the president of Greece, as hinted by honorary New Democracy president Constantinos Mitsotakis. Such an intervention, according to the Constitution of the Modern Greek State, could extend and not prevent the threatened aberration. Greek citizens will, of course, have the first say as to the outcome (and of the elections as well).

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