30 March, 1985

30 March 1985: Twenty years before the current conservative prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, endorsed the election of a president from the ranks of the opposition Pasok party, the socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreau did exactly the opposite. Much to the surprise of even his closest confidants, Papandreou decided on 9 March 1985 to withdraw his ruling party's support for a second term of Constantine Karamanlis as president of the republic, instead backing the noted jurist and Supreme Court prosecutor, Christos Sartzetakis, for the job of head of state. Sartzetakis (centre) is seen taking the oath of office on 30 March 1985, with

Papandreou behind him on the left. But the presidential vote in 1985 turned out to be more of a cliffhanger than the 2005 election of Karolos Papoulias with 279 parliamentary votes in the 300-seat chamber. Papandreou's ruling Pasok needed the votes of all its 180 MPs to reach the 'enhanced' majority of parliament ballots required to elect a president. Following the walkout of 112 main opposition New Democracy MPs from the election in protest at the 'insult' against their party founder Karamanlis, and with eight leftist deputies abstaining, Papandreou was forced to rely on parliament speaker Yiannis Alevras to cast an unprecedented deciding vote. An embittered Karamanlis resigned from the presidency on March 10, leaving the parliament speaker to act as 'interim alternate president' until the new head of state was sworn in on March 30. Alevras' transient presidential capacity further undermined the constitutional legitimacy of his vote for Sartzetakis in parliament two weeks later. But Pasok's populist press celebrated Karamanlis' 'overthrow' as the principal factor that won Papandreou a second four-year term in office three months later

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 25 May 2007)

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