Securing Democracy: Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation in Southern Europe

By Geoffrey Pridham | Go to book overview

Chapter nine

To be or not to be within the European Community: the party debate and democratic consolidation in Greece

Susannah Verney


Democratic consolidation and the Greek transition

Although political scientists are still feeling their way towards an understanding of what constitutes a consolidated democracy, the definitions which they have produced so far indicate that the key lies in the perceptions of the political actors. Thus M. Cotta believes that 'full consolidation' can be regarded as achieved when all the major political forces 'accept the fundamental rules of the democratic game and are confident that each other will comply with them'. 1 The implication would seem to be that democratic consolidation is largely an intellectual process of modifying attitudes to the system until the point where all those involved are prepared to play by its rules.

Meanwhile for Philippe Schmitter, consolidation means 'converting patterns into structures', with the actors coming 'to regard the rules and resources of these emergent structures as given, if not desirable'. 2 This suggests that the establishment of a new democratic system falls into two phases, with consolidation as the period of habituation to the structures set up during the transition from the previous regime.

Geoffrey Pridham has suggested that the shift from the first stage to the second occurs with the 'closing of options' at the first two levels of parliamentary institutionalization. In his three-level model of this process, he defines the 'macro-choice' as the initial decision to adopt a liberal democratic model; the 'meso-choice' concerns whether the system will be presidential or parliamentary and also determines the nature of popular representation through the selection of electoral law; while the last level is the 'micro-choice' rules of the game of the agreed institutional structures. 3

The Greek transition occurred very rapidly. In the midst of a national crisis with war against Turkey apparently imminent, former Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis, recalled from his Parisian exile by the political and military leadership, was able to establish a liberal democratic model which marked a major break with the past. While the

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