Spiros Markezinis

Spiros Markezinis

Spiros Markezinis (or Spyridon Markezinis) (Σπυρίδων Μαρκεζίνης) (1909 - January 4, 2000) was a Greek politician, longtime member of the Vouli ton Ellinon (Greece's parliament), and briefly Prime Minister.

Early political life

Spiros Markezinis earned degrees in Law and Political Science at the University of Athens, and entered private law practice. In 1936, he was appointed counsel to King George II, a capacity in which he served until 1946. The outbreak of World War II and Greece's occupation by Nazi Germany forced the King to flee the country, while Markezinis remained to fight as part of the resistance militias.

Markezinis was elected in the Parliament (the Vouli) during the 1946 elections as a member of the United Nationalist Party from the Cyclades. Shortly thereafter, he left the party and founded the New Party, the second of many parties under which he would serve. The New Party won 2.5% of the vote in the 1950 parliamentary elections, enough to hold Markezinis's single seat in the Vouli.

Economic reform

In 1949, Markezinis was appointed Minister Without Portfolio, but was effectively assigned control over the government's economic policy, coordinating the activities of the various economic ministries. Upon the election of long-time ally Marshal Alexandros Papagos as Prime Minister in 1952, Markezinis's effective position as minister of finance was further strengthened. In April 1953, Markezinis orchestrated a 50% devaluation of the Drachma vis-à-vis the US dollar, concurrently curbing import restrictions. Markezinis’s effective monetary policies are credited for boosting exports and consumer demand, as well as for curtailing inflation and the balance of trade deficit. Markezinis was considered at the time as a possible successor in the party leadership and premiership in the event of Marshal Papagos's retirement.

Later parliamentary positions

Papagos died in 1955. He was succeeded by neither Markezinis (whose relations with the Marshal had become tense) nor by other heirs apparents (such as Panagiotis Kanellopoulos nor Stephanos Stephanopoulos ), but by Konstantinos Karamanlis, a junior minister who was appointed by King Paul to form a new government. Karamanlis managed to gather the support of nearly all the MPs of Marshal Papagos's party, and eventually formed the conservative National Radical Union (ERE). In the same year, Markezinis founded the Progressive Party, but failed to win seats in the 1956 elections. Markezinis’s Party eventually won a seat in parliament in the 1958 elections. In 1961, he was re-elected in coalition with the Center Union Party, as well as in 1964, in coalition with the National Radical Party. Years of political turmoil ensued, and culminated in a military coup on April 21, 1967, orchestrated by George Papadopoulos, which resulted in a 7-year miliary regime.

Premiership under the Dictatorship

In 1973, the predominatly royalist Hellenic Navy staged an abortive attempt to overthrow the military regime. Junta strongman George Papadopoulos retaliated by deposing the already self-exiled King Constantine II , and appointing himself President of the Republic further to a controversial referendum.

In face of growing difficulties with the economy, popular dissent and increasing diplomatic isolation, the Greek junta was seeking ways for a transition to some form of parliamentary rule. Papadopoulos sought support from the old political establishment, and Markezinis accepted to undertake the mission to help lead the country back to parliamentary rule. In September 1973, he was appointed by Papadopoulos Prime Minister of Greece, with the task to lead Greece to parliamentary rule. He accepted the task, subject to a commitment by Papadopoulos to curtail any military interference. Papadopoulos proceeded to abolish martial law, and eased censorship of the press. Free elections were proclaimed, in which political formations including part of the traditional left were expected to participate.

In November 1973 the Athens Polytechnic uprising broke out. The student uprising is believed to have been spontaneous, and not orchestrated by any political groups in Greece. It eventually evolved to a universal demonstration against the dictatorship. In November 25 1973, Brigadier Demetrios Ioannides used the uprising as a pretext to stage a countercoup that overthrew Papadopoulos, and put a dramatic end to Markezinis's attempt for transition to democratic rule. Ioannidis arrested Markezinis, cancelled the elections, and reinstated martial law. The regime crumbled in July 1974, after an abortive coup by Ioannidis against Archbishop Makarios, was met by a Turkish invasion in Cyprus.

The resoration of Democracy

Markezinis was involved in the negotiations in July 1974 that led to the return of democratic government under Konstantinos Karamanlis's national unity government. Markezinis's Progressive Party remained an active political party, albeit a small one, whose main success consisted of electing a delegate to the European parliament in 1981. Markezinis spent his latter years writing his memoirs and on the political history of contemporary Greece.

Legacy

Markezinis’s tenure as Prime Minister of Greece under the Junta remains controversial. Some praise his willingness to undertake the daunting, quixotic, and ultimately unsuccessful task of restoring parliamentary rule in a smooth and bloodless manner in 1973. Others feel that Markezinis lost all credibility as a politician by accepting a political appointment by dictator George Papadopoulos. Markezinis is, however, almost universally acclaimed for his successful economic reforms in the 1950s, and for his prolific historical publications, which include a multi-volume history of politics in modern Greece (The Political history of modern Greece).

Prime Minister of Greece 1973

Preceded by: George Papadopoulos

Succeeded by: Adamantios Androutsopoulos


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