Greece Civilian Politics Resume
Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies
In February 1950, martial law was lifted in preparation for the first general election since 1946. The social upheavals of wartime enfranchised parts of society previously excluded from political participation; women, emancipated in some ways under the PEEA, were to receive the right to vote in 1951. In the election of 1950, no fewer than forty-four parties, most of them centered on individual politicians rather than political principles, contested the 250 seats in parliament. Tsaldaris and the Populists won a plurality of only sixty-two, giving the balance of power to a group of centerright parties: the Liberals, led by Sophocles Venizelos, the son of the former prime minister, the National Progressive Center Union under General Plastiras, and the Georgios Papandreou Party. These three parties agreed to form a coalition government with Plastiras at the helm.
In the election of 1951, called because no stable coalition emerged from the 1950 election, two new organizations appeared. The royalist Greek Rally Party, under Field Marshal Alexandros Papagos, commander of the national army when it defeated the DAG, included a broad spectrum of Greek society and was modeled on the French Rally Party of Charles de Gaulle. The popularity of Papagos, who had reinstated the autonomy of the Greek military during his tenure as its commander, enabled Greek Rally to eclipse the Populists by garnering 114 seats to the Populists' two. The United Democratic Party, a front for the banned KKE, won ten seats although many of its candidates were in prison. Based on their combined 131 seats, the Liberals and the Center Union formed another shaky centrist ruling coalition. At this point, Greece felt the sharp edge of dependency on the United States. Threatening to withdraw aid, the United States ambassador urged that the electoral system be changed from proportional to simple majority representation, a move that would favor Papagos's conservative Greek Rally Party. Politicians reluctantly made the change. The election of 1952 gave Greek Rally 247 of 300 seats in parliament, beginning a decade of dominance by the right. This episode also set a pattern of political parties altering voting laws while in office to ensure future electoral success.
The Papagos administration took advantage of its parliamentary majority to unite conservatives and begin to improve Greece's economic situation. Devaluation of the drachma spurred exports and attracted additional capital from the West. Papagos also improved Greece's international security by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952 and by entering the Balkan Pact with Turkey and Yugoslavia in 1953. The latter agreement soon dissolved, however, when Yugoslavia's relations with the Soviet Union improved. Stimulated by Greece's new status as a NATO ally of Turkey, Papagos began negotiations with Britain and Turkey over the status of Cyprus, a British crown colony and the home of the largest remaining Greek population in territory adjacent to Greece. When those talks failed in 1955 amid anti-Greek riots in Istanbul and political violence stirred by the Greek-Cypriot National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston--EOKA), relations between Greece and Turkey entered three decades of hostility.
Data as of December 1994
NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece Civilian Politics Resume information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece Civilian Politics Resume should be addressed to the Library of Congress.