868.00/4–246: Telegram

The Chargé in Greece ( Rankin ) to the Secretary of State

confidential

446. As election returns come in, intensive political activity has been centering around questions of (a) formation new govt (b) future of regency (c) date of plebiscite.

[Page 129]
(a)
Regent April 1 accepted Sophoulis resignation with request he remain office till new govt formed and April 2 entrusted this mandate to Executive Committee Populist Party. Latter apparently reluctant assume sole governmental responsibility in difficult days ahead and desiring present picture of liberalism has approached centrist, and non-political leaders with regard assumption premiership. Voulgaris, Papandreou and Sophoulis have refused collaborate, latter preferring lead opposition and press for new elections while Canallopoulos and Venizelos are hesitant. King reported urging selection Gonatas. There is strong possibility premiership will finally be entrusted to non-political personality most likely Panayotis Poulitsas, President Council of State, pending election Populist leader at forthcoming party congress or convening of assembly. British Embassy is distressed at lack of talent among available candidates for premiership and would prefer coalition govt under Papandreou whom they consider best man in sight. British faced with new situation where they are no longer undisputed arbiters Greek situation apparently propose seek more positive US support their policies. This connection British Minister Counselor Lascelles said he would appreciate my endorsement idea of coalition govt if asked for advice by politicians.
[b?]
Regent has announced intention resign in accordance previous declarations but Lascelles feels certain he can be persuaded remain if Allies so request. Says Bevin strongly favors retention Damaskinos (contrary previous position) and that British FonOff is asking King’s assent this connection. Some divergence views within Populist Party on question Damaskinos. Mavromichalis at least is known to favor his retaining post but others insist Greek people “detest” Regent and he must go. ReDeptel 404, March 29.64 Apparently neither British Embassy nor FonOff has seriously faced problems Damaskinos successor but both according Lascelles would oppose Papagos. Lascelles hopes Embassy will use influence induce Regent withdraw resignation and thinks statement by Secretary this connection would be helpful, (c) Despite Republican majority elections, (national bloc being considered as Republican and uncertain factor political abstention included) Populist leaders are convinced time is “now or never” for plebiscite which they accordingly desire almost immediately June being mentioned. They believe apparently that many inclined towards republic would nevertheless refuse vote on same side as Communists and realize moreover that inevitable “mistakes” Rightist govt will weaken Royalist cause as time goes by. Lascelles feels some definite date should be fixed for plebiscite (and asked our support this point) but is undecided as to exact timing and uncertain British FonOff views; while I feel immediate raising issue with attendant political agitation should be avoided (my despatch 2448 March 28).64 It is [Page 130] possible this end might, in fact, best be served as Lascelles suggests by fixing definite date plebiscite. Fall of 1946 after harvest completed with attendant improvement economic situation or spring 1947 would seem reasonable compromises between Populist demand and position previously adopted. Damaskinos and British FonOff calling for postponement till 1948.

Dept’s views and instructions urgently requested re points raised final parts above three paragraphs.

Rankin
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.