264. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1
Athens, March 24, 1967, 1315Z.
- During past few days there has been flurry of rumors in press and elsewhere regarding fall of Paraskevopoulos government and postponement of elections. These stories have now been partly discredited, however, by (A) statements of both George Papandreou and Kanellopoulos reaffirming their support of Paraskevopoulos and reexpressing their belief in need for return of political normality through elections in May; (B) Parliament’s approval in principle of simple proportional electoral bill; and (C) statement by government day before yesterday saying it “is certain of its stability which is guaranteed by confidence of two large parties supporting it”. Most leading personalities now seem either to want early elections or to be reluctantly reconciled to seeing them held.
- There is still, however, an active rightist group which is reportedly seeking to upset Paraskevopoulos and to postpone elections through formation of government, even if this government could not obtain vote of confidence in Parliament. Reports vary, but persons usually mentioned as favoring this extreme course are: former ERE PriMin Pipinellis, Electheros Kosmos publisher Kostantopoulos, former DefMin Garoufalias, former Public Security Minister Apostolakos, former ERE Deputy Farmakis and Queen Mother Frederika who, according to George Papandreou, is leader of “junta”. There have been conflicting reports whether Major Arnaoutis, King’s private secretary, is also an adherent of this group. CAS has also reported that Lt. General Spandidakis, Chief of Greek Army General Staff, has recently acted to prepare for implementation of Ierax (Hawk) 2, an alleged plan for military control of Greece contingent upon occurrence of another political crisis.
- In our view, a plan probably does exist for certain actions by military in event of a dictatorship, but there is no evidence that army leadership is actually plotting to create conditions leading to deviation from Constitution. On contrary, we hold to opinion that military would not seek independently to impose a dictatorship: but it would support a dictatorship if King decided in favor of such a regime. (Also see USDOA message 0345 March 67.)2
- Though it is not clear how well integrated civilian side of “junta” is or how determined it is to upset path to elections, its members all seem [Page 561] to be united, however, by fear that elections in May, particularly under Paraskevopoulos government, would result in EK’s obtaining at least plurality of votes and in Andreas Papandreou’s being the dominant voice in new government. There are several ways by which they could try to topple present government and create situation leading to postponement of elections. One, they could create some incident, e.g. arrest of Andreas Papandreou following dissolution of Parliament, that might produce all kinds of pyrotechnics providing pretext for postponing elections. Similar result might be achieved if government acted flagrantly in favor of ERE during electoral campaign, e.g. actions by gendarmerie and TEA (Home Guard) forces. Another possibility would be to try to persuade Paraskevopoulos himself to resign on pretext his government was under irreconcilable ERE and EK pressures on how it should behave during campaign.
- In certain quarters, Progressive Party leader Markezinis has been mentioned as likely choice for mandate if government fell. Theory would be for Markezinis to appear in Parliament for vote of confidence for specified period, perhaps six months, to conclude Aspida affair, seek settlement of Cyprus problem, make certain reforms in economic field, etc. Supporters of Markezinis believe he could obtain vote of confidence, even though he does not enjoy wide popularity, because Deputies would realize choice was either Markezinis or dictatorial regime. Markezinis might be able to gain support of EK or part of it for a short postponement of elections, if he could assure George Papandreou that an amnesty of Aspida affair would be forthcoming.
- Key and still uncertain element in current picture, however, is attitude of King. We know that King was initially pleased by smooth transition from Stephanopoulos to Paraskevopoulos and by prospect of extricating himself, through elections, from vulnerable position in which he found himself after July 1965. Recently, however, the King has reportedly been dismayed by George Papandreou’s failure to control his son and King has begun to have second thoughts on wisdom of holding elections in May and of permitting EK, and, particularly, Andreas Papandreou to emerge as leading political force. King has undoubtedly been under strong pressure from rightists, including possibly his mother, to alter his stand towards present transitional government and elections. On other hand, he has also been warned by George Papandreou, through Palace political advisor, Bitsios, that any deviation from Constitution could be catastrophic both for country and for monarchy (A–491).3
- In our view, any effort by Palace and by Right to postpone elections could play right into hands of Andreas Papandreou and Left, unless it were carefully engineered to avoid appearance of direct [Page 562] involvement by King. This, however, would be extremely difficult to accomplish. Even more dangerous would be establishment of a dictatorship—a view that we have expressed to many Greek personalities, including King, over past several months. On balance, we are inclined to believe that our assessment of political situation as reflected in A–4324 is still essentially valid and that King, despite pressures by Right, wishes to avoid extremism. CAS and DATT concur in this message.