June 23, 1996

June 23, 1996: Andreas Papandreou, 77, founder and president of the ruling socialist Pasok party, dies of a cardiac infraction three months after he had returned home following his 123-day hospitalisation for pulmonary infection and kidney malfunction at the intensive care unit of the Onassion ' Heart Surgery Centre between -November 1995 and March 1996.-The long illness had rendered Papandreou unable to govern, forcing him to resign as prime minister on January 15, the 56th day of his hospital treatment.
On January 18, the Pasok parliamentary group elected Costas Simitis to replace the ailing leader as premier while Papandreou nominally remained at the helm of the party. His sudden death came on the eve of a Pasok congress that was set to resolve the power vacuum at the top of the ruling party by electing a 'deputy party president' to assume some of Papandreou's duties and oversee the prime minister's modernisation drive. Instead, the party congress that followed Papandreou's June 26 funeral, heeded Simitis' plea for unity by electing him as party president ahead of general elections in September, which the socialists won easily.

Papandreou's departure thus marked the end of an era in Greek politics when the popularity of charismatic leaders often overshadowed the consequences of their erratic policy choices. It confirmed Simitis' ascendancy as a pragmatic reformer who would put right some of his predecessor's populist excesses. Photo shows Papandreou's elder son, then education minister George Papandreou, comforting his weeping mother Margaret at his father's funeral.

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 7 July 2006 )

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