Greece in the 1990’s
With the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a presidential republic, after the favorable outcome (69.2% of voters) of the popular referendum of 8 December 1974, a new Constitution, which sanctioned the strengthening of presidential powers, it was approved with the sole vote of the deputies of the majority party New Democracy (11 June 1975). The Parliament (19 June) elected Academician K. Tsàtsos as the first President of the Republic.
Thanks to the moderate policy of Prime Minister K. Karamanlìs, a climate of security and stability prevailed in the country; the communist movement, banned from 1947, returned to legality; Negotiations began which led to Greece’s accession to the EEC (1 January 1981). Greece and the USA signed new defense and cooperation agreements in 1976 and an agreement concerning the regime of US military bases on Greek territory for the period 1978-83. The parliamentary majority approved (25 October 1980) the re-entry of Greece into the NATO military structure, from which it had left (15 August 1974) following the second Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which the Atlantic Alliance had not been able to prevent. Karamanlìs established good relations with the Balkan countries, with the USSR and with the Arab world. However, the Cyprus crisis and the dispute with Turkey on the demarcation of the borders in the Aegean Sea remained unresolved, sown with Greek islands near the Turkish coasts, on the seabed and its probable hydrocarbon deposits, on the Muslim populations of Thrace and the assets of the Greeks extradited from Turkey. The negative economic trend was also a cause for concern, arousing discontent among workers.
According to rrrjewelry, the early legislative elections (November 20, 1977) marked a downsizing of consensus towards the New Democracy party: 41.85% of the votes (54.5 in 1974) and 172 seats (out of 300), 48 fewer than the previous ones. The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) of A. Papandrèu, on the other hand, became the main opposition party, with 25.33% of the votes (13.5 in 1974) and 93 seats: thanks to its populist promises to radical social changes and to his strong personal charisma, Papandrèu conquered, to the detriment of the centrist and communist formations, the urban middle class, the workers and direct farmers in the countryside.
At the end of Tsàtsos’ mandate, Karamanlìs left the office of president of the majority party and prime minister, to pass to the presidency of the Republic (May 5, 1980). The leadership of the party was entrusted to Greece Ràllis, who formed a new government (May 9), without however being able to tame the war of the dolphins that had been unleashed within new democracy after the withdrawal of its founder. The decline in popularity of New Democracy was manifested by its defeat in the legislative elections of October 18, 1981, in which it obtained only 35.9% of the votes. PASOK, on the other hand, achieved a landslide victory by winning 172 of the 300 seats in Parliament with 48.06% of the votes. President Karamanlìs ensured the handover of powers in unexceptionable conditions of legality and tranquility.
Papandrèu constituted the first socialist government in the history of Greece (October 21) and later attempted, without ever fully succeeding, to introduce some of the many promised changes in his ambitious program of “ third way to socialism ” between European social democracies and bureaucratic collectivism. The greatest failure was recorded in the government of the economy, for which he was forced to adopt severe austerity measures. In terms of foreign policy, Greece entered with Papandrèu in a period of continuous friction with his allies. However, the ” third world ” slogans of the first PASOK, which advocated the exit of Greece from NATO and the EEC, were set aside. Giving proof of greater pragmatism and flexibility, Greece ended up over the years on more moderate and centrist positions, Europeanists, with a strong dose of ambiguity. After 1981, the PASOK government made Greece’s participation in the NATO military organization “ inactive ”, invoking the lack of guarantees from the Atlantic Alliance in the event of an aggression by Turkey, the only, according to the Greek government, which could have threatened the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
In relations with the United States, despite the ostentatious anti-Americanism of PASOK, there was never a dramatic breakdown, even in moments of greatest tension and accusations against the Greek rulers of excessive acquiescence towards Middle Eastern terrorism, which several times transformed the Greece into the scene of bloody attacks. The agreement on the American bases was renewed in 1983 for another five years.
Despite a course of normal ” cohabitation ” between the moderate president of the Republic and the socialist premier, at the end of Karamanlìs’ mandate, PASOK denied him a second one and the elderly politician resigned early (March 9, 1985); in his place was elected by the parliamentary majority of PASOK and with the support of the left, the judge of the Supreme Court Ch. Sartzetàkis (March 29).
PASOK recorded a slight decline in consensus (45.8%) in the legislative elections of June 2, 1985 and in the administrative elections of October 20, 1986. New democracy, under the leadership of K. Mitsotàkis (from 1984), instead achieved a substantial recovery of his electoral influence (40.8%) and conquered in the administrative offices the municipalities of Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus, the three most important cities, and half of the other municipalities in the country.
After a serious crisis in the Aegean (March 1987) which for 24 hours brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war, a climate of relative détente was created following Papandrèu’s talks with the Turkish Prime Minister T. Özal in the Davos in Switzerland (February 4, 1988) and in Brussels (March 2-3), and Özal’s visit to Athens (June 13-15).
Overwhelmed by the economic crisis and the accusations of serious political-financial scandals against Papandrèu and four of his ministers, PASOK was defeated in the elections of June 18, 1989. However, the winner of the elections, the center-right New Democracy party, did not win the required absolute majority of seats in Parliament, had to ally with the Communists of the Coalition of the Left and Progress, giving life to a provisional government, which, after having guaranteed the referral to a special court of the PASOK leaders accused of embezzlement, announced new elections (November 5, 1989). Faced with a new impasseelectoral and a serious failure of public finance, a government of ” technicians ” was resorted to with the external support of New Democracy, PASOK and the Coalition of the left, which also had a short life. Finally, in the elections of 8 April 1990, New Democracy managed to secure 151 of the 300 seats with 46.88% of the votes, against 125 seats in PASOK and 21 in the Communist Coalition. One seat went to the ecologists and 2 seats to the representatives of the Turkish minority. The president of New Democracy Mitsotàkis formed a single-color government (April 11, 1990). On the expiry of Sartzet’akis’ mandate, on May 4, 1990, he was re-elected president of the Karamanlìs Republic with the votes of the 151 deputies of the New Democracy and of the two deputies of the Turkish minority.
From August 1992, Greece was paralyzed by a wave of strikes against Mitsotàkis’ austerity policy, in particular against the public sector pension reform project that raised the retirement age to 65 for men and women. and increased employee contributions.
The early nineties saw Greece, in a very little encouraging international context, grappling with a persistent economic crisis and a serious disruption of public finances, symptoms, according to Karamanlìs, of “a profound national crisis”. The historical upheavals after 1989 in central and eastern Europe, the disintegration of the USSR and in particular the Yugoslav crisis have created strong tensions on the northern borders of the country, which sees its traditional strategic role reduced, as a member of the Atlantic Alliance, in the Eastern Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe. Turkey’s interest in the Muslim minorities of the Balkans, the fear of territorial claims on Greek Macedonia by the irredentists of the Macedonian Republic and the friction with the new rulers.