Securing Democracy: Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation in Southern Europe

By Geoffrey Pridham | Go to book overview

Chapter eight

Political parties and democratic consolidation in Greece

Kevin Featherstone

The transition to democracy in Spain, Portugal, and Greece in the mid-1970s attracted considerable external attention, and it gave rise to a new 'southern European' profile in political, economic, and military discussions. However, while Greece shares certain social and economic traits with the new Iberian states its political experience has exhibited important differences. 1 The Greek political system has had a longer and more recent experience of liberal democratic rule than either Spain or Portugal, and the Greek transition to democracy in the 1970s has appeared to be a smoother one. To understand the process of consolidation of the new Greek regime after 1974, it is thus necessary to bear in mind the experiences of the previous parliamentary regime as they formed potent legacies affecting subsequent political attitudes.

Concentrating attention on the role played by the political parties in the process of consolidation seems particularly appropriate. While the individual figure of Constantine Karamanlis, albeit aided by a coalition Cabinet, dominated the transition to democracy, the process of consolidation was crucially affected by the major political parties. More particularly, focusing on political parties, as a bridge between state action and wider society, affords the opportunity to highlight important underlying structures of society. Indeed to understand the context in which consolidation was sought presupposes an awareness of the nature of the state and its relations with wider society.

This analysis will thus concentrate on three key themes: party-state relations, relations between the parties themselves, and party-society relations. The analysis begins by discussing the changing nature of state-civil relations, the role of parties in government, incorporatist and clientelistic practices, and their autonomy from the state. Historically, limited industrialization, weak class structures, disorientation from the influx of refugees, and rapid urbanization all delayed the emergence of a strong pluralistic infrastructure. Party structures have been slow to develop; the uses made of the state apparatus are thus of crucial importance.

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