Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Greece
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 377-378
GREECE: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1956-19621
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Greek party politics is often difficult to follow, and this was especially true during our time period, which saw six national elections and numerous cases of party splits, mergers, appearances, disappearances, name changes, and coalitions. The 1950 elections spawned some 3000 candidates for 250 seats in the chamber of deputies. Ten separate parties won representation, with the Populist's 27 percent constituting a plurality. Another election in 1951 saw the field reduced to about 1,900 candidates for 258 seats, with only six parties winning representation. The major political figure during most of the first half of our time period was Field Marshal Alexander Papagos, whose Greek Rally--formed from many of the Populist members--won 44 percent of the seats in 1951 and command of the chamber. Another election in 1952 gave the Greek Rally 82 percent of the now 300 seats and clear control of the government. The main opposition in Parliament was furnished by the National Progressive Union of the Center (EPEK) and the Liberal Party, which contested the 1952 elections as a coalition. The Union of Democratic Left (EDA), a left wing party considered by many as a substitute for the Communist Party, which was outlawed in 1947, received about 10 percent of the votes but no seats. With the death of Papagos in 1955, Constantine Karamanlis was named premier by the king, and Karamanlis proceeded to reorganize the Greek Rally as the National Radical Union (ERE), made up mainly of Greek Rally candidates with some former liberals. For the 1956 elections, the ERE was opposed by the Democratic Union, a coalition of the EPEK, Liberals, EDA, Populists, and Agrarians. Although the coalition won more votes than the governing ERE, Karamanlis was returned with 54 percent of the seats.

The opposition parties failed to hold their coalition for the 1958 elections, when the Liberals and EDA ran separate slates and left the EPEK to join with some Agrarians in the Progressive Agricultural Democratic Union (PADE). The ERE increased its majority to 58 percent as a result, and the EDA with 26 percent of the seats became the largest of the opposition parties. For the 1961 elections, a new coalition of opposition groups was created by George Papandreou. Called the Center Union (EK), it consisted of the Liberals, Progressives, and the remnants of the EPEK, but it won only 33 percent of the seats. The former communist sponsored EDA joined with an Agrarian group to form the Pandemocratic Agrarian Front (PAME), which won another 8 percent of the seats, leaving the ERE still in control with 59 percent of the deputies and Karamanlis as premier thus closing out our time period.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Except for Portugal, Greece demonstrated the highest party instability of all of the Western countries, and the pattern of party representation plotted over time is composed largely of party ups and downs. Of course, the military coup in 1967 and the subsequent banning of party activity until the resumption of civilian government in 1974 contributed to party instability, but Greek parties needed no additional stimulus. Of the four original parties in our study, only two survived in varying conditions until 1978. Two new parties that meet our criteria of strength and stability are involved in contemporary Greek politics.

Original Parties, Terminated

141 Liberal Party. The Greek Liberal Party ended in 1961, when what was left of it merged into George Papandreou's new Center Union, EK, which was not included in our original study because it was formed so late in the period.

142 National Progressive Union of the Center. The EPEK lost strength rather steadily since the early 1950s, and its remnants also merged into the Center Union, EK, in 1961

Original Parties, Continuing

143 Greek Rally, later the National Radical Union. This was the party of Constantine Karamanlis, who was prime minister from 1955 to 1963. When civilian government was restored in 1974, Karamanlis formed the New Democracy Party, which he claimed was different from his old ERE. Most observers regard it as a continuation of his former party, however.

145 United Democratic Left. Regarded as a front for the Communist Party, which was outlawed until 1974, the EDA allied with other communist groups to contest the 1974 and 1977 elections. But the EDA did much better alone than in the alliance, and it was reduced to only one legislative seat. It has survived, but just barely.

New Parties, Continuing

146 Center Union. The Center Union (EK) was formed in 1961 by George Papandreou, who became premier in 1964 and who resigned in 1965 over a dispute with the king that contributed to the military coup in 1967. The party contested the 1974 elections in a coalition with the New Political Forces (NPD) and was known as EK-NPD. In 1977, its name was changed to the Union for the Democratic Center (EDKH).

147 Panhellenic Socialist Union. PASOK was founded in 1974 by Andreas Papandreou, the leftist son of George Papandreou. PASOK softened its militant image in the 1977 elections and increased its share of seats sixfold, making it the largest opposition party to Karamanlis's New Democracy.


Despite all the instability in Greek party politics, as of 1979 the largest party in Greek government had been the major governing party throughout most of the 1950s. Also continuing, but near extinction, was the leftist EDA. Even one of the "new" parties, the Democratic Center, had its roots in the 1960s. Although party activity was banned for seven years under a military government, the major political organizations of the 1950s reappeared with considerable continuity of personnel once the lid was lifted.

[For party politics in Greece since 1962, go to the essay by Chad Bell]

1. Our study of party politics in Greece is based on a file of 509 pages from 45 documents, all of which are in English (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by George Antunes and Leanne Hoole. Alan Kaplan coded the parties on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Keith Legg critically reviewed our coding. [Click on bibliographic essay for the state of the literature on Greek party politics during 1950-62.]