Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Next Act of Greek Political Drama Unwritten as Titan Exits Stage PAPANDREOU'S LEGACY

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Next Act of Greek Political Drama Unwritten as Titan Exits Stage PAPANDREOU'S LEGACY

Article excerpt

GREEKS may be deafened by silence with the anticipated exit of one of their most charismatic leaders from the political stage.

They have come to accept that Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who has been in the hospital since Nov. 20, is unlikely ever to resume his duties. But they do not look forward to a far-less-exciting era in Greek politics on the horizon.

No other politician comes close to Mr. Papandreou's prestige or that of former President Constantine Karamanlis, who retired this year. Both men, through the force of their personalities, reinforced Greeks' passion for democratic politics after military rule ended in 1974.

Mr. Karamanlis, prime minister for 14 years and president for eight, restored civilian government after the fall of the military dictatorship and founded the conservative New Democracy party.

Papandreou, whose father also served as prime minister, inspired voters to rally primarily for a personality rather than a cohesive party, says Richard Clogg, an authority on modern Greek history at Oxford University in Britain.

And like Karamanlis, the Harvard-educated Papandreou played a key role in restoring democracy to Greece, founding the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in 1974. He nearly doubled its support in every election until taking over Greece's helm in 1981. His government, like that of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain, benefited from a leftward shift in politics after years of dictatorship.

Some of the Greek press even compared Papandreou to Jesus.

"There aren't any more leaders that we feel so strongly about anymore after Papandreou," says Kitsa Hanioti, an Athens resident.

A succession battle looks set between Interior Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Defense Minister Gerassimos Arsenis, and a former industry minister, Costas Simitis. But no one has dared raise the idea of resigning with the ailing Papandreou. …

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