July 8, 1965

July 8, 1965: A stern letter by the then 24-year-old monarch, Constantine II, to prime minister George Papandreou, 77, rejecting a decision by the 'old man of democracy' to dismiss defence minister Petros Garoufalias, led to the premier's resignation on July 15, triggering the biggest constitutional crisis in postwar Greece and a protracted period of political turmoil that culminated in the overthrow of democratic institutions by a military junta two years later. The veteran Centre Union leader had won the February 16, 1964 elections by a landslide 52.73 percent and was embarking on a wide-ranging reform drive, when the ASPIDA (shield) affair was blown out of proportion by the rightwing press, aided and abetted by royalist Garoufalias' actions. In his letter

to Papandreou, the king refused to endorse his replacement of Garoufalias, accusing the prime minister of condoning the ASPIDA caucus of democratic officers as 'a plot to install a military dictatorship of the most despicable kind'. Papandreou's polite reply reminded the young monarch of the premier's constitutional prerogative to choose his cabinet members I and blamed Constantine's meddling in government affairs on his 'lack of experience' and the 'influence of sinister royal counsellors'. At a meeting between the two men in Corfu on the occasion of the birth of Constantine's daughter Alexia on July 14, the king offered to accept Garoufalias' dismissal but only on condition that Papandreou would not take over the defence portfolio himself. 'I will not be a prime minister under royal prohibition,' Papandreou responded before tendering his resignation. Photo shows Papandreou (L) escorting Constantine to his enthronement ceremony in parliament on March 23, 1964

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 21 July 2006 )

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