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Greece Modern History

The bourgeois government returned from exile after the Second World War. The contradictions to the communist resistance movement EAM were great and led to civil war. With American support for the government side, the EAM was defeated in 1949, after Yugoslavia, after its break with the Soviet Union, had cut off the guerrilla's supply lines. The civil war demanded more Greek lives than World War II, made hundreds of thousands homeless, and forced tens of thousands to flee to communist countries.

The US had a strong influence in Greece after the war. US military bases were established and Greece became a NATO member in 1951. During the 1950s, the US pumped in money and industry was built up.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Greece. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The old contradictions between the right and the left flared up again after the right-wing victory in 1961, when the right was accused of electoral fraud. The murder of left-wing politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963 forced Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis to resign. After a new election in 1964, the center party became the center union leader Georgios Papandreou prime minister. His attempt to reform the right-wing armed forces led to conflict between the government and the royal house, and King Constantine forced Papandreou to resign in 1965.

Provisional king-appointed governments ruled for two years until new elections were announced until May 1967. Papandreou was victorious, which worried the circuits within the armed forces that regarded him as indulgent against the communists. A month before the election, some colonels with Georgios Papadopoulos at the head conducted a coup d'état and introduced dictatorship. King Constantine fled after a failed counterattack in December 1967 but remained formally king until June 1973, when Papadopoulos proclaimed president.

Contemporary History of GreeceReturn to democracy

Political parties and trade unions were banned, censorship was introduced and thousands of opposites were imprisoned and tortured. Even more Greeks escaped. In an internal power struggle, Papadopoulos was deposed in November 1973 by the military police chief Dimitrios Ioannidis. A civilian puppet government was appointed.

Student riots in Athens were brutally defeated by the army. The collapse of the military junta came in July 1974 when it tried to conduct a coup d'état in Cyprus and unite the island with Greece. The coup failed since Turkey invaded Cyprus to protect the island's Turkish population. Before the threat of war with Turkey, the junta departed and Konstantinos Karamanlis was allowed to return to form a civilian government. The junta leaders were eventually brought to trial and several of them were sentenced to death. The death penalty was later converted to life imprisonment.

Karamanlis tried to create national reconciliation by allowing the Communist Party, which has been banned since 1947. His newly formed right-wing party New Democracy gained its own majority in the parliamentary elections in November 1974, and after a referendum in December that year, the monarchy was abolished.

Karamanlis resigned in 1980 and was elected president after first securing Greece's membership of the EC (now the EU) until January 1, 1981.

In the 1981 parliamentary elections, the Pasok Socialist Party defeated leader Andreas Papandreou, son of Georgios. Pasok initially wanted to move Greece out of the EC and NATO and close the US military bases, but soon gave up these efforts. Pasok reformed family policy, education and health care but downplayed its plans to nationalize the industry.

New democracy and Pasok take turns in power

The party retained power in the 1985 elections, but the government was weakened by protests against financial austerity and by several scandals, including illegal telephone interception and embezzlement from Crete's bank. The scandals and protests forced Papandreou to resign in 1989.

Provisional governments ruled until New Democracy, now led by Konstantinos Mitsotakis, triumphed in the 1990 elections. Hundreds of government companies were offered for sale. Several strikes were triggered in the public sector, at the same time as New Democracy was also involved in corruption scandals. In 1993, a new election was held and Pasok returned to power. The party now expressed formal support for the EU and NATO and continued the privatization programs.

Andreas Papandreou had been cleared in court of the allegations of involvement in the scandals that had befallen his previous government. Two former ministers were sentenced to mild sentences. Papandreou's continued time as head of government was marked by his faltering health and the wear and tear of Pasok between a faction loyal to Papandreou and another more market-friendly and EU-oriented group that demanded that the party be modernized. Leading in the latter faction was the Minister of Industry, Professor Kostas (Konstantinos) Simitis, who left in September 1995 both the government and the party leadership.

Papandreou was succeeded as head of government in 1996 by Kostas Simitis, who replaced several ministers with more EU-friendly and reform-minded politicians. When Papandreou passed away, Simitis also became a party leader and announced parliamentary elections in September 1996 to get the electoral mandate for his reform policy. Pasok retained the government post-election.

Greece joins EMU

An important target for the new government was Greek membership in the EU's Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) from its inception in 1999. In order to meet EMU's demands for lower inflation and smaller budget deficits, a strict austerity policy was implemented with cuts in the public sector and increased taxes.. Despite protest strikes, austerity continued in 1997 and 1998. Greece failed to reach an EMU membership in 1999, but won entry into the euro zone in 2001 (see Finance).

Apart from the economy, the conflict with Turkey was high on the government's agenda. Around the turn of the century, there was a noticeable improvement in relations, including since the two countries cooperated on emergency aid after the severe earthquakes hit both of them in the fall of 1999 (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

When Prime Minister Simitis announced parliamentary elections in April 2000, Pasok was hardly a favorite. The economic success of the ruling party had led to increased popularity in the middle class and in business. The improved relations with Turkey were also greeted with the delight of most Greeks.

At the same time, rising unemployment and crime as well as widespread corruption were a concern for Pasok. The party had lost support in the poor regions, where the cuts in the public sector and in social policy had hit hardest.

Good economic development

In the election, Pasok won by a small margin over New Democracy, which advanced sharply. Pasok's resignation continued during the next term and led Prime Minister Simitis in 2004 to hand over party leadership to Foreign Minister Giorgos Papandreou, grandson to former Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou and son to Andreas Papandreou.

At the same time, Simitis announced parliamentary elections until March 2004. The two parties went to elections on substantially the same promises: education reform, increased employment, reduced income tax, reduced bureaucracy and other measures that would benefit investment. The election became a victory for New Democracy, whose leader Kostas (Konstantinos) Karamanlis became new prime minister.

An important task for the new government was to ensure that the Olympic Games, held in Greece in August 2004, were well implemented. Despite criticism in the spring and early summer for lack of security and delayed construction projects, the sporting event was conducted without serious incidents and was considered to have held high class.

During the 2004–2007 term of office, the government found it difficult to implement its policy despite New Democracy having its own majority in Parliament. Among other things, the attempts to stop higher education (mainly allowing private universities) and the costly pension system were stopped. By contrast, laws were passed to streamline administration and reduce corruption. However, the government's reputation in this matter was damaged in the spring of 2007 when it was revealed that managers of the state pension funds had been cheating large sums. The government, on the other hand, was pleased with strong economic growth, improved government finances and falling unemployment.

Forest fires affect election movement

The dry and hot summer of 2007 caused severe forest fires to ravage in several places. The government was criticized, among other things, for not being guilty of incendiary fires. In August, when the first heat wave had subsided, Karamanli's parliamentary elections announced in September the same year, six months earlier than planned. The reason was assumed to be that New Democracy's take on opinion polls had begun to decline.

When the election movement began later that month, the heat had returned with new forest fires. 63 people died in the worst fires in decades. Many of the fires were set and several people were arrested. An emergency permit was introduced and the electoral movement was interrupted.

When the election movement resumed, the fires and climate and environmental issues came into focus. But despite fierce criticism from the opposition and the public against the government for lack of crisis preparedness, New Democracy managed to win the election. The party gained a tight takeover in parliament. The government thus survived but with a greatly weakened majority.

Even before the election, the government had failed to push through changes in the pension system. Despite extensive strikes and demonstrations, a new attempt was made in the spring of 2008. This time, Parliament approved the proposal, which included, among other things, reduced pensions and poorer opportunities for early retirement.

Global financial crisis is affecting Greece

In the fall of 2008, the New Democratic parliamentary majority shrank to an overweight position after Karamanlis excluded a government-critical MP from the party. The kicked-out member refused to give up his seat and continued as an independent. At the same time, New Democracy risked losing another mandate, as several of the party's members were subject to corruption investigations. The allegations included, among other things, that the state would have sold state property for cheap to a well-to-do monastery in the Monk Republic of Athos (see Religion). The disclosure led to the departure of two ministers.

The corruption allegations and the government's way of dealing with the global financial crisis that erupted in the fall of 2008, caused New Democracy to collapse in opinion polls. During the autumn, a series of demonstrations were held against the government's savings policy. In connection with government hostile riots in December, a fifteen-year-old boy was shot to death by police, which increased concern.

The problem continued during 2009 with corruption charges against a minister. When a new Democratic MP dropped out in August, Karamanli's new election announced in October. In the election campaign, Pasok promised new major public initiatives, while New Democracy said budgetary austerity and a freeze on public wages would be necessary.

Pasok won the election, but New Democracy got it right. Paso Governor Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou and his government were forced to deal with a shrinking government debt and rapidly growing budget deficit. Demonstrations were held against government cuts, frozen wages and increased taxes.

Support packages from the EU and the IMF

Greece's credit rating was at the bottom and market interest rates were unreasonably high for a government that needed to borrow € 110 billion - about SEK 1 trillion - in three years. Only when Germany agreed in spring of one-fifth of the loans did it become a major rescue package from the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF.

The loans came with demands for continued austerity, tax increases and eventually decisions about raising retirement age (see Social conditions). But despite the government's struggle to reduce the budget deficit, the world's confidence in the Greek economy decreased, and its credit rating dropped to a record low. After Parliament approved new savings, in July 2011, the EU decided on a second aid package.

However, when the crisis worsened during the autumn, eurozone leaders pushed Europe's private banks to write off half of their claims on Greece. The government promised a new savings package, but when Papandreou proposed a referendum on this triggered a government crisis and he was forced to resign in November. A cross-border coalition government temporarily took over.

Two new elections in 2012

In a new election in May 2012, the government parties were punished for the crisis, but the election result made a government formation impossible, and another new election was held in June. Then New Democracy won, followed by the left alliance Syriza and with Pasok in a distant third place. New Democratic leader Antonis Samaras formed a government that continued with budget cuts. It was dominated by New Democracy with the support of Pasok and the Democratic Left.

The years 2012 and 2013 were marked by fierce contradictions between Greece and the lenders regarding austerity requirements.

In December 2014, Prime Minister Samaras decided to postpone the presidential election that would have taken place in Parliament in early 2015. When Parliament failed three times to agree on a new president, Samaras was required by the Constitution to dissolve Parliament and announce new elections by the end of January 2015.

The re-election was a great success for Syriza, who was able to form a government. The change of power triggered a concern within the EU that the new government would demand renegotiation of the loan settlements (read on in Current Policy).

 
 

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