268. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1
4573. 1. In our view, decision to give mandate and right to dissolve Parliament to Kanellopoulos is most important move young King has made since he ascended to throne three years ago.2 It may prove to be his worst. Admittedly, King’s choices were limited once he had decided that he could not risk a Center Union majority victory in the elections and once Paraskevopoulos Govt was upset.3 Whether ERE’s unyielding stand on amendment of electoral law was part of a pre-arranged plan by Palace and Right to overthrow Paraskevopoulous and to provide ground for formation of an ERE Govt, as alleged by Andreas Papandreou and Eleftheria, is highly debatable. In any case, if Paraskevopoulos Govt had not fallen over amendment issue, we believe another way would probably have soon been found by hard-core ERE and Palace to bring it down. ERE press and Kanellopoulos have argued that King had [Page 569] no alternative but to grant him mandate when George Papandreou refused invitation to meeting to discuss ecumenical-type govt. King knew, of course, that Papandreou was opposed to idea of an ecumenical govt, and even if meeting had been held, chances were party leaders could not agree.
2. By granting mandate to Kanellopoulos, King has openly committed himself to ERE which probably has support of between 35% to 40% of population. This is obviously narrow ground on which to base his future. (King has undoubtedly hoped that FDK and Progressives would vote for Kanellopoulos for sake of electoral bill and that their support would give to government appearance of broader base.) No only has King provoked EDA and EK, both moderates and Andreas Papandreou supporters, but he also has deeply embittered Progressive and FDK deputies who feel they have been left in lurch after they came to King’s rescue in July 1965. They have now unhappy choice of either voting for ERE Govt or going to elections under an electoral system which is to their disadvantage. Stephanopoulos has bitterly remarked to us that FDK and probably Tsirimokos and Progressives will abstain if Kanellopoulos Govt conducts elections.
3. For time being, George Papandreou seems to be following cautious policy, despite his strong criticism of King and Kanellopoulos and his warning of a “revolution.” We have impression that both Papandreous are frightened by present situation, Andreas because of possibility of his arrest and imprisonment and George because of chance of postponement of elections and constitutional deviation. EK leader still seems to believe that, notwithstanding ERE Govt, his party will gain at least plurality in elections. Therefore, he has shown no interest in Mitsotakis’ proposal that EK, FDK, etc. announce that they will abstain from elections. Panpandreou might change his mind, however, if he became convinced that elections would be rigged to make ERE first party. His attitude would undoubtedly be different if Andreas was arrested prior to elections.
4. Hope of ERE has undoubtedly been that right of dissolution would be sufficient weapon to persuade smaller parties to support Govt and that psychological and material benefits of office would give party a significant advantage in electoral campaign. Though PriMin has spoken confidently of an ERE victory, he would probably not be unduly disappointed if his party emerged as close second to EK. We believe hard-core ERE ministers, on other hand, would be willing to proceed to elections only if they were certain of ERE’s achieving first place. They would argue that if EK won plurality, it could form govt with EDA support and that this possibility could not be risked. Therefore, we fear that ERE will soon realize that 45 days is not enough time to change situation appreciably [Page 570] and that effort will be made to find a pretext to postpone elections, if necessary, through a deviation from constitution.
5. It is difficult to convey gloom over future developments which exists in political circles. Especially dismaying is present deep lack of trust between political leaders themselves as well as notably between King and both Papandreous and also between King and Stephanopoulos and Markezinis. Latter two, who believe King deliberately deceived them recently and who despise Kanellopoulos personally, seem to feel no sense of responsibility to try to help avoid collision course on which country is now heading. In our view, there are basically two options (a) for King and ERE to push ahead to elections in late May despite opposition of all other parties; or (b) for King to try to promote formation of inter-party government. Situation might still be salvaged if Kanellopoulos could be persuaded to step aside and to give up his right to dissolve Parliament and if ERE, FDK and Progressives could agree on inter-party govt. Everyone agrees, however, that hour is late.
- Source: Department of State, Athens Post Files: Lot 72 A 5030, POL 15. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Talbot and Day. The date-time-group was obtained from the copy in Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 GREECE.↩
- The King asked Kanellopoulos on April 3 to form a government to take the country through elections. In telegram 4569 from Athens, April 7, Talbot reported that he had pressed the new Prime Minister for an indication of what action he would take in the event of a Papandreou victory in the May elections. Talbot noted that his “prodding” led Kanellopoulos to declare that “the Greek nation would never be delivered to the communists or to Andreas Papandreou. It would be saved for real democracy.” (Ibid.)↩
- Following a disagreement over an amendment to the proposed electoral law designed to extend the parliamentary immunity of Andreas Papandreou, the Center Union announced its decision to withdraw its support of the Paraskevopoulos government, which resigned on March 30.↩