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The World: The Military Ousts Papadopoulos

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GREECE The Military Ousts Papadopoulos

The country was already under martial law, so the army was able to move quietly and efficiently. Police and troops quickly surrounded the suburban home of President George Papadopoulos and placed him under arrest while tanks rolled unopposed into the main squares of Athens. By the time the Greek people learned that their country had undergone its second coup d’ état in six and a half years, the army had already sworn in a new president, Lieut. General Phaedon Ghizikis, a rightist and friend of deposed King Constantine.

To the outside world, the notion that the Greek military forces had overthrown Papadopoulos seemed at first glance to be a contradiction in terms.

After all, it was Papadopoulos who, as a colonel, had masterminded the 1967 coup that brought the army to power.

And, though he later shed his military uniform, he had been backed by the armed forces—even as he made some tentative moves toward modest liberalization. But he lost much of his military support last June when he abolished the monarchy and subsequently rid his cabinet of military men. He also issued a general amnesty for political prisoners, appointed a civilian premier, and promised to hold parliamentary elections sometime in 1974. Skeptics interpreted Papadopoulos’s moves as an effort to divorce himself from his military colleagues and assume full control for himself.

Though the military looked on Papadopoulos’s maneuver with disfavor, his promises of full democracy had been made before and were not altogether convincing to Greek leftists and moderates. In early November, a memorial service for former Premier George Papandreou, a leftist, had turned into a clash between police and students, and a week later demonstrations broke out at the Athens Polytechnic University and quickly spread to the streets of the capital; 13 persons were killed and hundreds wounded. Papadopoulos imposed martial law to restore order. The unrest finally gave the military an excuse to overthrow him.

Until this week, the new president, Phaedon Ghizikis, 57, had been the commander of the First Army based in central Greece. He had never been close to Papadopoulos, remaining instead friendly with King Constantine, who is presently living in exile in Britain. It was not known whether the new coup would have any effect on the status of the Greek monarchy, though observers noted that in an announcement the new government referred to the “Royal” Greek Air Force for the first time since the monarchy was formally abolished six months ago.

Dour Oratory. In any case, the tenor of the regime’s early statements made clear that its primary concern was in reinstating outright military rule. “The people were literally being dragged into an electoral adventure,” the government announced in words that were reminiscent of the dour oratory of the 1967 coup. Instead of fulfilling the colonels’ original goals and bringing about “the cleansing of public life,” the official statement continued, Papadopoulos was allowing the country to be pushed “to the same habits against which the armed forces revolted in April 1967.”

By all early accounts, the latest coup was accomplished without bloodshed, evoking neither widespread outrage nor elation from the Greek people. Despite a 24-hour curfew, Athenians wandered out into the Sunday afternoon sunshine, wondering what to expect of the new regime. Traditionally the Greek military has favored the monarchy and been austerely puritanical. Six years ago, the first edict of the angry colonels had been a ban on miniskirts and long hair. This time, whatever else the coup might mean, it clearly indicated that the tanks had put an end to George Papadopoulos’s efforts to return Greece to at least the trappings of parliamentary rule.

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