1 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 4

The Greek Elections


WHEN the Greeks go to the polls on Sun- day, they are faced with an unenviable choice. Mr. Karamanlis's right-wing party ERE can boast of eight years' stability and increased prosperity, but is saddled with an extremist right

wing which has carried its anti-Communist cam- paign to the point of murder. The major oppo- sition party, the Centre Union, has not con- vinced the electorate that it would be able to maintain the stability which has held since the devaluation of the drachma in 1953.

As Mr. Karamanlis is now vigorously remind- ing his supporters in pre-election rallies through- out the country, he has achieved great things. With the five-year development plan he is attract- ing the foreign investment which will be more and more important now that American aid is reduced. The new £36 million aluminium plant on the Gulf of Corinth, financed chiefly by the French company Pechiney and the American Reynolds, is visible evidence of Greece's pos- sible industrialisation.

The very longevity of the government means a lot to a country which has had a new Prime Minister on an average more than once a year since independence. But stability has been bought at a cost. The rise in the national income did not deter 80,000 Greeks from emigrating last year, most of them to West Germany; for the extra money did not come near their pockets. Peaches rotting on the trees testify to ERE's failure in agricultural planning. Far worse, ERE • has been discredited by the violence of its ex- tremists. The conduct of the last elections marked the beginning of this; the murder of Lambrakis in May this year showed that the right-wing gangsters were out of control.

Lambrakis's murder, the indirect cause of the forthcoming elections, has probably harmed ERE less than the moderates would like to be- lieve. In the atmosphere of violence and suspicion which followed it was easy for ERE to work on the fear of Communist subversion which has bolstered the right ever since the civil war. The image of Karamanlis as the strong man of Greek politics allowed him to return from his retire- ment in Zurich with his grip on the party if anything surer than before.

If the centre hid thrown up a leader of the toughness of Karamanlis it would hive a better chance of topping the poll. Its leader, George Papandreou, has made the mistake of o‘ er- estimating the idealism of the electorate. Signifi- cantly, what has held the centre coalition to- gether in opposition has been, not concern with social policies and economic planning, but the 'inexorable struggle' against a government which used fraud and violence at the last elections. (ft would have had a majority anyway, but, as the centre rightly argues, that is not the point.) The rhetoric indulged in by the leaders of the centre and by the opposition press did nothing to convince doubters that a Centre Union gov- ernment could match ERE in efficiency. No one expected a planned socialist programme from the centre, but one did at least hope for some indi- cation of how the aim of social justice was to be achieved. Because the centre's programme is hidden behind smokescreens of anti-fascist bom- bast, it has failed to attract the 'realistic' voter. And the periodic disagreements between. Papan- dreou and Sophocles Venizelos over political tactics—not policies—are taken to be a sign of weakness. Which they are.

Because some Greek politicians find it easy to switch from one party to the other in the ptuNuit of power, because there is jobbery on both sides of the political fence, it is sometimes assumed that little separates the two parties. In foreign policy this is now true. The Centre Union, 11,),■,- ever, is not buttressed by groups of thugs. and here lies the difference. It is all the sadder. there- fore, that at this election, which is being fought on domestic issues, the centre should have failed to press home its moral advantage with policies for modernising Greece with humanity. To take

one example, the centre has not faced firmly the gigantic problem of erosion and reafforestation, which, since it entails the banishment of the goat, must cause major disruption in the Peasant's way of life.

The traditional ingredients of Greek politics— gossip, patronage, personalities, shifts of allegi- ance—encourage abstraction and rhetoric'. This has suited Mr: Karamanlis, who appears to many Greeks, as did the dictator Metaxas, the only man strong enough to cut through the verbiage and get things done. Karamanlis's plans to re- vise the constitution (Curtailing, for example, the right to strike, and setting up a supreme court with the power to outlaw subversive parties), make it still more important that there should be a healthy opposition to check the possible drift towards a one-party State. The centre is weak. The probable increase in the pro-Corn- munist vote—at the last election EDA polled' 14 Per cent of the votes cast—will not strengthen the opposition, since the centre cannot afford to deal with EDA. And much as one might wish to see Mr. Markezinis's progressives improve their position, they are unlikely to win more than twenty seats out of the 300. At best, Mr. Markezinis, a representative of the moderate right, may hope to hold the balance if neither of the two major parties has a clear majority.

If Mr. Karamanlis is returned to power, as seems probable, there will doubtless be allega- tions by the left of unfairness and intimidation. The Centre Union supports the present caretaker government, but even so there are many who hold that the effects of the last few years cannot be cancelled in a few weeks of impartial gov- ernment. Moreover, the centre has constantly Claimed to have the support of the majority of the Greek people, so the acceptance of an ERE majority would involve the admission, that most of the Greeks are, undemocratic. One hopes that Sunday's results will not have to be dis- puted, and that the centre will win. But a bird's- eye view of Greek history shows that, if Greece was the cradle of democracy, it has also been a playpen for oligarchs.