Tuesday, 29 July 2008

1973: Greek Referendum on the Country's Monarchy
Hardly any country has had so many referenda on their form of state than Greece. Some resulted in favouring the Monarchy, some gave the politicians’ republic the preference. On this day 35 years ago, the then ruling military junta ordered the country to accept the colonels' republic. What's hardly a surprise in a dictatorship, they got what they had asked for: A republic.

According to the official results, in the referendum of 29th July 1973 3,870,124 (78.4%) agreed with the military rulers to abolish the Monarchy, 1,064,300 (21.6%) courageously expressed their disapproval with the republic and remained loyal to King Constantine II, who has been living in exile since 1967. Greece had a population of 10 million, the junta registered less than 6 million voters. According to the official figures 4,934,424 took part in the referendum. Considering these figures the achieved majority is put in a different spot light.

King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie on 14th December 1967 on their way into exile after the King's attempted coup to restore democracy in Greece had failed.

The Mutiny of the Velos
1973 was a crucial year in Greek history. In May 1973 a wide-ranging anti-junta movement among the ranks of the mostly Royalist Navy was discovered and suppressed, just before its outbreak. On 25 May 1973, the destroyer Velos, under the command of Nikolaos Pappas, while participating in a NATO exercise and in order to protest against the dictatorship in Greece, anchored at Fiumicino, Italy, refusing to return to Greece. The captain and the officers had learned by radio that royalist naval officers had been arrested and tortured in Greece. Commander Pappas was a member of a group of democratic officers, loyal to their oath to the King and planning to act against the junta. Pappas knew the arrested officers and realised there was no further hope for a coup at that point.
Headline in a German newspaper on 29th May 1973: "Mutiny for the King was a strike against the King."

Nikolaos Pappas and 31 officers and crew disembarked and asked for political asylum, creating a world-wide interest for the situation in Greece. The failed Navy revolt demonstrated that even after six years of junta "normality", the opposition had not died off, and that it existed even amongst large parts of the armed forces, which were the regime's main internal supporter.

The US magazine Time wrote in its edition of 11th June 1973: "In the wake of the coup, there were reports that the regime had rounded up hundreds of civilians and military men who were suspected of being royalist partisans. Last week, Papadopoulos sacked his chief of the navy after sitting down to dinner with him the night before. The air force was also grounded for fear that dissident pilots would fly their planes to Italy, in a show of support for the coup.

[the King] cooperated with all kinds of reactionaries, turned against the armed forces and behaved like a party leader of adventurists, fellow travelers, saboteurs and even murderers.' With those sharp words, Premier George Papadopoulos, in a ten-minute, nationwide broadcast, last week abolished the monarchy and appointed himself head of the new Greek Republic. He accused Constantine of supporting an abortive coup planned by royalist naval officers, which gave Papadopoulos an ideal excuse to extend the junta's heavyhanded rule and depose the King. Under the constitution that Papadopoulos promulgated in 1968, which provides that the King is titular head of state, last week's announcement that Greece had become a republic was patently illegal. But it did not come as much of a surprise. Originally, the colonels had used the throne as a way of giving their rule some illusion of legitimacy. King Constantine's refusal to return to Greece from exile in Rome until democracy was restored had long since made a mockery of that claim."
In June 1973 King Constantine declared in a press conference, that he would not accept Papadopoulos' act and would fight instead for the restoration of democracy in his home country.

A Decreed republic
The Navy’s royalist sympathies gave Georgios Papadopoulos the pretext he was looking for to assume total power in Greece. The Daily Telegraph wrote (1st June 1973): “Last week's abortive mutiny has apparently convinced Mr. Papadopoulos that the time was ripe to put paid to future plots in which the King is used as a rallying cry.”

On 1st June, Papadopoulos issued a decree declaring Greece a presidential republic, with himself as president. The act was widley criticised as illegal. To give his new putsch the air of legality, Papadopoulos ordered a referendum to be held on 29 July 1973. The defunct political parties and their leaders urged for a "No" as a sign of opposition to the regime, but the vote was tightly controlled by the junta, and the results were predictably favourable to the regime. (See results above).

Once again Time magazine: "Last month [it was actually April 1973], exiled former Premier Constantine Caramanlis, 66, issued a bitter broadside from Paris against the regime, calling for its resignation and the return of the King to oversee the restoration of democracy. … Many Greeks have mixed feelings about King Constantine, but the monarchy has traditionally been viewed as a symbolic support of democracy."

The referendum did not quieten the opposition, among which the royalists formed a large part: “The press [in Greece] has published anti-regime appeals, but has not been allowed to do so when these have come from influential sources. … The same applies to the appeals of the deposed King Constantine and retired military officers. One retired officer was recently jailed for sending a letter to a provincial paper in which he suggested that the monarchy should be restored.” (Weekly "To the Point", 8th September 1973).

Papadopoulos couldn’t enjoy his presidency for very a long time. In November 1973, the Athens Polytechnic uprising broke out. The student uprising is generally believed to have been spontaneous, started with purely student demands at first, and not orchestrated by any political groups in Greece. On 24th November 1973 he was toppled by Brigadier General Dimitrios Ioannides and arrested. Lieutnant General Phaedon Gizikis was declared president.

The Legacy of the 1973 Referendum

Observers from the very diversified Greek political spectrum may argue on many issues, but they agree on one point: The results of the 29th July 1973 referendum “were achieved by fraud and intimidation”(Panayotis Kanellopoulos, last royal Prime Minister in 1967), however, the legacy of dictator Georgios Papadopulos’ is still effecting Greek politics.

King Constantine II ascended to the Greek throne after the death of his father, King Pavlos I, on 6th March 1964.

"A king is a king unless he says he is no longer a king. Titles don't disappear but power and privelege can be taken away from them. Found in Wikipedia, posted by Charles, 4 October 2006

1 comment:

Cornelius Krissilas said...

Thank you for the very informative article.Ilike that: A king is a King unless he says he is no more a King.
All the Referendums that were made were all null and void.King Constantine is still King of the Hellenes and of Hellas and Justice will prevail in the end.He will be restored to the Throne of his beloved Country Greece by God's Grace and the Will of the People.Zito o Vasileus!Long live the King!