270. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1
4650. 1. My expectation is that Kanellopoulos government, acting on decree by King, will dissolve Parliament tonight or tomorrow and will announce elections May 28. This situation follows several days of intense efforts, primarily by FDK elements, to gain approval of concept of an ecumenical government. It also follows period of largely unsuccessful [Page 573] efforts by ERE to obtain FDK and Progressive Party support of Kanellopoulos government. Both King and ERE obviously miscalculated in their estimate that two smaller national parties would give PriMin vote of confidence for sake of simple proportional electoral law.
2. FDK view, as expressed to Embassy by Mitsotakis and Eleftheria publisher Kokkas, has been that ERE government would inevitably lead to dictatorship prior to elections and that only way to avoid this disaster would be for King to make final effort to form ecumenical government to pass electoral bill and to postpone elections until 1968. FDK theory has been that Papandreou would probably refuse initially to participate in ecumenical government and that ERE, FDK, and Progressives would then be in better position to form coalition government. Neither ERE nor Papandreou, however, was receptive to FDK proposal. ERE was naturally reluctant to give up fruits of office and to admit defeat, and Papandreou argued that ecumenical government would be an unworkable political “monstrosity.” FDK proposal was also weakened when Papandreou reportedly enticed six or seven FDK deputies away from party by promise they would be eventually re-admitted to Center Union. Votes of these six or seven, plus 122 of EK and 22 of EDA, could thus make it virtually impossible for coalition of other parties to win vote of confidence in house of 300.
3. Having seen Markezinis, Stephanopoulos, and Kanellopoulos in past few days, I called on George Papandreou today and found him, like other leaders, in self-righteous, unyielding mood. EK leader asserted that King had made major blunder by giving mandate to Kanellopoulos and that he has now ceased to be King of all Hellenes. “He is now King of ERE,” and must suffer fate of any party leader. Papandreou made repeatedly clear that, if Parliament is dissolved and country is led to elections by ERE government, it will no longer be just Andreas, but all of EK including himself who will be conducting anti-monarchical campaign. Elder Papandreou also warned that if dictatorship occurs, he will wage civil war. In his view, only exodus from present crisis would be for King to name service government of common confidence to conduct free and honest elections. Such a government could be given an ecumenical flavor by having each party designate a Minister without portfolio as an observer. Otherwise Papandreou made no concession to idea of ecumenical government.
4. This evening King’s political advisor Bitsios visited me to pass on latest thinking of Palace. Part of Bitsios’ presentation was detailed account of how George Papandreou had repeatedly broken his promises to King between December when Paraskevopoulos government was formed and late March. EK leader had specifically failed to live up to his written promise to expel Andreas if latter deviated from party line and attacked monarchy. Turning to today’s developments, Bitsios reported [Page 574] that, following careful consideration by King, Palace intermediary was authorized this afternoon to make following proposal to Papandreou: formation of ecumenical government under non-politician of common confidence with Cabinet representation from all parties to pass simple electoral bill and to conduct elections May 28, provided two largest parties, i.e., ERE and EK, would make written promise to cooperate in a post-electoral government for 6, 8 or 10 months.
5. Later this evening Bitsios telephoned me that Papandreou had not only rejected this proposal but had also made “threats.” (These, I presume, were same threats he had expressed earlier today to me regarding anti-monarchical campaign, etc.) Bitsios added that PriMin has been informed of Papandreou’s response and that he will be in touch with King later tonight. In my and my colleagues view, King’s last minute approach to Papandreou was not really serious effort to find another solution, since he could hardly have expected Papandreou to sign paper promising to cooperate with ERE after elections. Even if elder Papandreou had accepted, Andreas would surely have disagreed and would probably have broken away from party.
6. All this gives only highlights of recent fast-moving events which will be reported in detail later and which have been characterized by blunders, miscalculations, distrust and stubbornness on all sides. In last few days, insatiable vivacity of Greeks for quarreling among themselves seems to have triumphed over their traditional knack for producing compromises.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 GREECE. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to Ankara, Nicosia, Brussels for POLAD SHAPE, Paris, USDOCO South for Freshman, USCINCEUR for POLAD, and Thessaloniki. Passed to the White House and USIA.↩