July 23-24, 1975

23-24 July 1974: Athenians take to the streets to celebrate the overnight fall of the military dictatorship. Some hold the special edition of the "Ta Nea' daily headlined 'Political government as of tonight'. Constantine Karamanlis, the former prime minister, was coming home after 11 years of self-imposed exile in Paris. He had been invited to return and restore democracy in Greece. It was one of those rare moments when all the Greeks agreed that the charismatic conservative Karamanlis was the only man who could pull the country back from the brink of war with Turkey, just as a seven-year-Iong military dictatorship was collapsing under the onus of its own blunders. Late on July 23, general Faedon Gizikis, the figurehead 'president' of the then ruling junta

faction headed by reclusive military police chief, brigadier-general Dimitris Ioannides, invited former politicians of the pre-junta era for consultations on the army's intention to hand over power to a civilian government comprising top cadres from the traditional centre and right. The news of the hand over plans sparked nationwide enthusiasm as the military rulers had set the country on a war footing in the wake of a full­scale Turkish invasion of Cyprus on July 20, provoked by a pro-junta coup in Nicosia which toppled the island-republic's president, Archbishop Makarios. Battles were still raging in the island's north when Greeks took to the streets in all the major cities, celebrating the junta's decision to step down before the war in Cyprus could spill over across the Aegean. But talks in Athens were going nowhere with Gizikis' offer of the mandate to form a government to Panayiotis Kanellopoulos, the last civilian prime minister in the week before the 21 April 1967 army coup. At the moment of deadlock on July 23, Evangelos Averoff, a close aide of Karamanlis, suggested that only the former rightwing strongman Karamanlis could take charge of the domestic situation and negotiate a ceasefire in Cyprus. But Averoff knew that Karamanlis was already on his way as cheering Athenian crowds chanted 'Here he comes!'

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 10 August 2006 )

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