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Greece: New Men, Old Mentality

3 minute read

It was surely one of the most exclusive elections of recent times. There are some 5,000,000 registered voters in Greece, but only 1,240 got to cast ballots last week. The chosen few, mostly mayors and leaders of the country’s tightly controlled labor unions and professional associations, were carefully selected by the country’s 3½-year-old military regime. They in turn elected 92 fellow Greeks to an even more carefully screened “advisory committee on legislation.”

After the election, the names of the 92 winners went to Premier George Papadopoulos, who will give the final nod to 46 of them and add another ten candidates of his own to fill the committee’s 56 seats. The committee will be expected to 1) “debate and comment” on legislation, in the junta’s words, but not too acidulously; 2) offer the government a “cross section of public opinion,” but not a very broad one; 3) serve as “a seedbed” for politicians of the future, but certainly not as a hotbed.

The members’ one-year terms can be renewed only by the regime, and they can be fired outright by the Premier for “sufficient cause.” To be sure, the regime will have a right to expect cooperation: after all, at $830 a month plus traveling expenses, the committee members will be better paid than a brigadier general in the Greek army.

Imprecise Charges. Even as it moved to plant its political seedbed, the regime last week also acted to root out what little unwanted advice and opposition it still has to endure. A few months ago, Papadopoulos slowly began to relax some of the colonels’ rigid controls, but hard-liners in the junta’s twelve-man inner circle immediately grew alarmed. Now Papadopoulos is retrenching, fearful of losing his struggle to stay on top. One of the measures that he authorized last week was a decree that persons spreading “false reports or rumors” detrimental to anything from police morale to the tourist trade risk a minimum $3,333 fine and a year in jail. Another move took the form of a series of arrests—up to 50 by week’s end—of a number of dissidents on vague charges of “subversive activities.”

Fuzzy charges, of course, are hardly new to the Greek judicial tradition. In Athens, archaeologists have discovered the ruins of the Royal Stoa, where Socrates was tried and sentenced to death 2,369 years ago. Recently, Ioannis Ze-ghinis, deputy prosecutor of the Athens appeals court, took the occasion of the find to recall in a speech that the charges against Socrates—disbelief in the gods and the corruption of youth—were “imprecise,” that there was no prosecutor and no defense counsel, and that no witnesses were ever produced. All in all, concluded Zeghinis, it was “a great miscarriage of justice.”

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