Report by Messrs. Richard T. Windle and Leland Morris, Chiefs of the Allied Mission To Observe the Greek Elections 66
Report on the Observation of the Greek Plebiscite
At the request of the British and American Governments, the Allied Mission appointed to observe the recompilation of the Greek Electoral Lists remained to observe the Plebiscite on the return of King George of the Hellenes held on 1st September.
The Mission had to be reorganized at short notice and its strength was increased from sixty-four to ninety-five observer teams, each consisting of an observer, driver, and a Greek interpreter. Twenty-five of the additional teams were supplied by the American element and the remainder by Land Forces Greece.
Observers were allocated to centres from which they could radiate to observe a number of polling places on polling day, and on the two days before polling day they visited villages and precincts where polling was to take place, to ensure that adequate preparations were made for the casting of ballots.
The selection of Centres of operation had regard to—
- An adequate coverage of the country.
- Districts to which earlier reports indicated attention would be desirable.
With minor exceptions, all observers reached Athens on 25th August. They were briefed on the following day and dispersed to their districts, the journey in many cases taking two or three days.
The number of places visited on the two days preceding the election was 1096. The number of polling places visited on polling day was 625.
The total number of electors on the rolls was approximately 1,813,730. At the time of writing this report 1,691,802 votes had been cast, and it is estimated that approximately 15,000 votes will be cast at the polling places where the polling takes place on 8th September. The votes cast will therefore be approximately 94% of the total electorate.
In 34 polling places polling did not take place owing, it is stated by the Greek Government, to the inability of the legal representative of the Government to reach the polling place. Polling will take place on 8th September at these places.
The total votes cast to date is:—
This shows a majority of 69% of votes cast in favour of the King.
Conditions in Polling Stations.
We are satisfied that the Government took adequate steps to provide the necessary personnel and material for the conduct of the plebiscite, and made provisions for the parties to be represented. In most cases the conditions established for polling stations appeared to have been carried out satisfactorily, but there were a number of polling stations in which there were irregularities which gave advantage to the supporters of the Government.
In some cases the elector was allowed to take only one ballot paper, and the way he voted would therefore be known. At a number of polling stations the representation of political parties was inadequate, and there is an indication that influence was used by the supporters of the Government to prevent representatives of the opposition from functioning. In Larissa and Thrace military operations are proceeding between government forces and armed bands; this on polling day created a state of tension which may have had the effect of preventing people attending the polling places.
Of polling places visited 463 are reported by the observers to have been orderly and well conducted, and in 162 there were varying degrees of dissatisfaction expressed. The counting of the votes appeared [Page 206]to have been conducted satisfactorily. Adequate arrangements for the counting had been made, and in the polling stations observed there were no complaints of importance.
Influence with Electors.
Many complaints have been made of interference with the electors. This takes many forms and is not confined to interference in and around polling places. While it was carried out by both sides, we feel from the information received that the supporters of the government were responsible for by far the largest amount of this form of activity. Owing to military operations in some districts even the roads were mined by anti-government elements, making the passage of electors dangerous.
Civil Service and Military Personnel.
Special arrangements were made for civil servants and military personnel to vote at stations other than those at which they were registered. We understood this to have been for the purpose of providing for absent voters. We fear, however, that voting facilities were given to service personnel who were not on the electoral lists, though qualified to be registered. This will increase the number of people who voted beyond that which would have been the case had it been confined to registered electors.
The special facilities for civil servants appear to have worked better as they had to hand in their electoral booklets in order to obtain these special facilities.
The state of public order is far from satisfactory. Well organized armed bands are operating in Larissa, Thrace and other parts of the country. The main towns are not affected by this, and the Government appear to be taking steps to deal with it. While this is a governmental matter, it had effect on the free movement of persons desiring to vote.
There is no doubt in our minds that the party representing the government view exercised undue influence in securing votes in support of the return of the King, but without that influence we are satisfied that a majority of votes for the King’s return could have been obtained.
The vote which shows 94% voting we regard as unreal and does not agree with the percentage of votes cast in the polling stations that were covered by our observers. The fact that the Mission remained to observe the plebiscite undoubtedly stimulated the government and its local election officers in making adequate preparations for and the carrying through of the polling.[Page 207]
A supplementary report devoted to detail respecting the conduct of the plebiscite and containing statistical and other appendices, including extracts from the observers’ reports, will be presented later.67