Panagis Tsaldaris (1868-1936) (or Panagiotis Tsaldaris or Panayotis Tsaldaris, Greek: Παναγής Τσαλδάρης) was a revered conservative politician and leader for many years (1922-1936) of the dominant before the World War II People's Party.
Tsaldaris was born in 1868 in the town Kamari of Corinth in Peloponnesus. He studied in the Law School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and, being an excellent student, he continued his studies abroad, in Berlin, Paris etc.
After he returned in Greece, he worked as a lawyer. Because of his thoroughness and his profound consultatory responses, he gained the respect of his colleagues and of all the law experts.
In 1919 Tsaldaris he got married with the daughter of the professor of university Spyridon Lambrou, Lina Tsaldaris, who stood by him during all his life and remained politically active, even after her husband's death.
Tsaldaris entered politics in 1910, when he was elected for the first time deputy in the Parliament in Corinth. He would remain a Greek deputy until his death in 1936. In 1915, he took the part of King Constantine I in the latter's conflict with Eleftherios Venizelos and he became minister of Justice in Dimitrios Gounaris's government.
Nonetheless, after the return of Venizelos and the self-exile of the King, Panagis Tsaldaris was imprisoned and then exiled in various islands of the Aegean Sea (1917-1920).
After the legislative elections of 1920, which resulted in an unexpected victory for the People's Party, Tsaldaris served in the governments of Dimitrios Rallis and Nikolaos Kalogeropoulos as Interior minister and minister of public transports. In the government of Dimitrios Gounaris he served once again as minister of public transports.
Leader of the People's Party
After the execution of the People's Party's leader, Dimitrios Gounaris, Tsaldaris was elected by the party members as their leader in 1922. In the elections of 1923 the party didn't take part and Tsaldaris protested against the persecutions of right-wing politicians. In the plebiscite of 1924, he supported King George II.
During the Pangalos's dictatorship, Tsaldaris fought along with other politicians against the military regime of the army general.
After the elections of 1926, Tsaldaris participated in the government of national unity of Alexandros Zaimis (as minister of National Economy, of Education and of Interior Affairs0, but he submitted his resignation in the August of 1927, because of a disagreement concerning the currency policy of the government.
During the 1928-1932 dominance of the Fileleftheron Komma (Liberal Party) and of his leader, Eleftherios Venizelos, Panagis Tsaldaris exerted a robust opposition as the leader of the second biggest party in the Greek Parliament.
In 1932, he turned down Venizelos' proposition to lead a government of national unity.
Panagis Tsaldaris signing the Balcan Pact in 1934.
Panagis Tsaldaris formed his first government in 1932, along with Georgios Kondylis and Ioannis Metaxas, after he had first officially recognised the outcome of the plebiscite of 1924. Nevertheless, his governement was overturned and Tsaldaris formed a new government (the 10th of March 1933) after his victory in the elections of 1933.
In his second premiership, Tsaldaris cooperated once again with Georgios Kondylis and Ioannis Metaxas. He confronted with success the military movement of Nikolaos Plastiras, but because of this crisis an interim government under the leadership of lieutenant general Nikolaos Othonaios was appointed.
The reputation of his government was, nevertheless, blackened, because of the assassination attack against Eleftherios Venizelos. Tsaldaris had no involvement and he condemned the criminal atttack, but party members and supporters of him were deemed responsible for the assault.
At the same time, three prominent members of the People's Party expressed their support for the monarchy and the exiled George II. Tsaldaris denounced such statements, which caused the outrage of the Fileleftheron Komma (Liberal Party) and a new military movement in 1935. After the successful suppression of the movement, Tsaldaris dissolved the Parliament and proclaimed early elections, asking for the election of a Constitutional Assembly.
Noteworthy, during his second premiersip, Tsaldaris signed a quadripartite pact with the Balcan nations and a pact with Turkey, guaranting the common borders of the two countries
His last years (1935-1936)
The parties of the opposition, including the Liberal Party, did not participate in the elections of 1935, protesting for the electoral law, passed by Tsaldaris' government, and for the special courts, which had, already, sentenced to death two prominent liberal army officers, the generals Anastasios Papoulas and Miltiadis Koimisis. As a result, the People's Party achieved an easy victory and Tsaldaris formed a new government.
At the same time, the voices within the People's Party, demanding the immediate return of George II multiplied. During the electoral debate, the Union of Royalists, an ephemeral alliance formed by Ioannis Metaxas, Ioannis Rallis and Georgios Stratos, had already expressly demanded the return of the formet King.
Tsaldaris was also favorable to the former King's return, but he wanted first the conducting of a plebiscite. In the Assembly, Tsaldaris insisted in his initial stance and provoked the reaction of the leadership of the Army and of the former venizelist Georgios Kondylis.
On October 10, 1935, the chiefs of the Armed Forces (Alexandros Papagos was one of the them) demanded Tsaldaris' resignation. After the prime minister's resignation, the former Republican Kondylis declared himself Regent, abolished the Republic and staged a plebiscite on November 11 for the return of the monarchy. Before even the conducting of the plebiscite, Kondylis had already announced to the Assembly the abolition of the Republic and the restoration of the constitutional monarchy.
After these dramatic events, the People's Party was split and Ioannis Theotokis formed the National People's Party. In the elections of 1935 the People's Party and the Liberal Party were almost even. During the post-election era, Tsaldaris participated with passion in the Parliament and released some of his best and important speeches of his political career. Nevertheless, his bad health betrayed him and he did not managed to fulfil his political dreams.
He died the 17 May of 1936. Before his death, he voted down the first government of Ioannis Metaxas, the forerunner of the following dictatorship.
Panagis Tsaldaris was a revered for his moderation royalist and right-wing politician. It is caracteristic, that, when Kondylis, Papagos and other royalists of his parataxis demanded the immediate enforcement of the constitutional monarchy, Tsaldaris opposed these plans, asking for the conducting of a referendum. When he saw the burdain of political instability, Tsaldaris preferred to step down instead of exacerbating the turmoil. At the same time, he remained firm to his democratic values.
After all, this was his main problem and his political torture: the balance between his democratic principles and his royalist affiliations. Tsaldaris had once said: "I was always ant-venizelist and royalist but, at the same time, I always remained lawful (Ta Nea online)", a combination difficult to be achieved, as the dramatic events of 1935 proved. And, although Tsaldaris portraited himself as anti-venizelist, the truth is that he had some common traits with Venizelos: They were both anti-popularist and anti-extremist. The problem was that Tsaldaris lacked Venizelos' charisma and the popular appeal of his main political opponent. Venizelos marked a whole era and arose intense passions; Tsaldaris' passing through history was much more quiet.
Certainly, Tsaldaris may be accused for one thing: During the last years of his political career, he did not foresee the Metaxas' dictatorship and he did not react in order to prevent the enforcement of the dictatorial regime. But was he the only short-sighted politician during these difficult years?
Greek Stamp, Panagis Tsaldaris
Preceded by: Nikolaos Othonaios
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