Katerina Dede, Leonidas Kallivretakis, Lina Louvi, Elias Nikolakopoulos, Sotiris Rizas (Editing)
Hellenic Parliament Foundation & Institute of historical research publication/National Hellenic Research Foundation, 2022
The volume is a brilliant result of the fruitful cooperation of two leading institutions that for their part each underlines the substantial/real and symbolic/mental strengthening of democracy in our country: the Hellenic Parliament Foundation and the National Research Foundation (through the Institute of Historical Research). The completed work contains the map, a kind of biography of Greek parliamentarism. The volume covers a gap to the extent that it now presents all the party formations that were represented in Parliament during the long period 1844-1967, with the aim on the one hand to capture the continuity of the party phenomenon as a lever of democracy and on the other hand to highlight its gradual mutations.
The writing of the 135 articles, which include parties, parliamentary groups and coalitions of parties, was undertaken and carried out by 48 historians and political scientists using in their documentation both primary and secondary sources. Thus, in the form of an entry, the full institutional reflection of our national choices is presented through the party formations represented in Parliament. These formations and party organizations, in so far as they expressed the political orientations of the electorate over the long period of 123 years, have a special and weighty historical and political significance.
In Greece, since the the war of nation independence, the demand for a representative system with a democratic perspective has been pervasive in the constitutional elaborations of the Revolutionary National Assemblies. In conjunction with the enactment of the first electoral law in November 1822, by which the members of the National Assemblies and the Parliament were elected, the foundations of the representative system were laid —in the midst of the Revolution. The wider acceptance and dissemination of liberal ideas (even in the first form) transformed traditional, local character, agglomerations into political factions that claimed the term “party”, survived the period of absolute monarchy and demanded the enactment of a constitution, as well as the re-establishment of electoral procedures. The Constitution of 1844 was a breakthrough, as it inaugurated a new period of operation of the Greek political parties, which, as in all European countries, was not rectilinear, but experienced ups and downs.
Without a doubt, the work does not merely offer a scientific historical and political panorama of party life. It is a solid base of reference insofar as, at the first level, it reflects the efforts of the scientific community to organize its research, recording and reflection for the all-round understanding of the party and the political phenomenon in general. The volume, which was edited by Katerina Dede, Leonidas Kallivretakis, Lina Louvi, Elias Nikolakopoulos and Sotiris Rizas, not only describes the parties, but also the particular dynamics of each era and the people who pushed their creation, while it offers a vivid depiction of the Greek state development as a means of reaction to global reforms and changes. Thus, the reader comes into contact with the overall history of the political parties as a key factor of the Greek state, from the early forms of the party to its emergence as a key pillar of representative democracy. After all, from the person-centered and local political factions to the organization of multidimensional national parties as a means of expressing new ideas, the turbulent course of the parliamentary party phenomenon reflects the course of the Greek state itself.
Moreover, on a second level, the volume is a good starting point for Theoretical and comparative approaches for a more complete understanding and interpretation of political life in Greece from the beginnings of Parliamentarism to the April dictatorship of ’67.
Reading the articles of the volume, one immediately finds the fluctuations of Greek political life, the regressions, the Greek fantasies, the erosions, but of course the vanguards, the currents, the expectations, as well as the foreign influences, the intense divisions –mainly political and less social– that permeated Greek political life and created excusable and unaccountable consequences but also materials of political culture which, to a large extent, affect the political anger of the citizens until today. From the electoral law of March 18, 1844 that effectively established universal (male) suffrage, which was constitutionally enshrined in the revision of 1864, to the decline of political and social resistance in 1952, when women also gained full political rights and voted for the first time in 1956, almost a century had passed. However, developments such as the above facilitated the gradual disengagement of the early Party agglomerations from the male-centric, person-centered and clientelistic character they originally had and allowed their transformation into relatively stable timeless organizations, pillars for the functioning of the modern democratic regime.
The rich illustration and the “index of persons” with which the dictionary is completed are essential elements for the reader, the researcher and the purposes of the publication. Needless to say, this bibliographic note is dedicated to the memory of Elias Nikolakopoulos, whose contribution was important to political thought and electoral processes in Greece, as important as his friendship and camaraderie.
*by Thanasis Vassiliou