During the First Hellenic Republic (1828-1832) and the reign of King Otto (1833-1863), the political parties were essentially based on clientage of the Great Powers: the Russian Party, the English Party, and the French Party.
During the first years of the reign of King George I, the political life of the country did not differ considerably from the previous Othonian period. Moreover, the new Constitution of 1864 was directed toward the modernization of the political system. However, the crown's political interventions were undiminished and the "court governments" succeeded one another. The dissolution of the old political parties led to the creation of modern parties based on explicit and enduring parliamentary principles. Until the 1870s, loose parties continued to prevail without principles or a political program, instead based they were organized around the personality of a more or less charismatic leader. This situation changed with the dynamic intervention of Charilaos Trikoupis when he converted his Fifth Party into a new philosophically-based party. A supporter the British two-party parliamentary system, in 1873 he created the Modernist Party (Neoteristiko Komma) according to the model of western democracies.
After Trikoupis published his critical diatribe in the Athens daily Kairoi entitled "Who's to Blame" and clearly pointing the finger at royal favoritism in the selection of Prime Ministers, Trikoupis was asked to form a government to lead the country into the 1875 general election. These were among the most clean elections in Greek history but the Modernist Party was defeated by the Nationalist Party of Alexandros Koumoundouros.
Philosophy of the party
The Modernist Party was organized around the principles of modernization (defined as emulating Western European culture) of the political, social and economic life of the country. Specifically, the priority of the Modernist Party was the development of the private economic sphere and the consequent restriction of state intervention in the economy. This political program was supported by the emerging middle class in the Greek state, the business activities of the Greeks living abroad and the western European investors who sought new investment opportunities partially because of the great decline of the traditional European economies. Thus the program of Trikoupis' Modernist Party introduced systematically into the Greek state the new ideas and principles of British liberalism. However, this program is not adequate enough to characterize Neoteristiko as a modern party. The absence of established governance procedures and organs within the party with responsibility for policy planning and decision-making rendered this party individual- and leader-centered like most historical political groupings throughout Greek history. Consequently, perhaps it would be more exact to characterize Neoteristiko as a "transitional" party, meaning that it made demands for the modernization of the parties rather than inaugurating new institutions and procedures by its actions.
The Nationalist Party remained in power, except for brief periods of care-taker governments by Trikoupis until March 15, 1882, when Trikoupis led the Government for three years. During this time he was able to push through an aggressive program of reforms. Trikoupis was a strong believer in the need to create an infrastructure to support the economy, and to attract foreign investment. An progressive program of road and railroad construction significantly improved internal communications. The most important of the works he campaigned for was the digging of the Corinth Canal.
In the 1885 general election, the Modernist Party elected only 56 deputies against 184 deputies for the Nationalist Party led by Theodoros Deligiannis. Despite the mandate, however, the Deligiannis government fell a year later and Trikoupis was again Prime Minister until 1890.
Trikoupis led Modernist Party governments again from June 22, 1892 – May 15, 1893 during which time he stood before parliament and made the most famous statement of his career: "Regretfully, we are broke". This was due to massive overspending as Greece sought to modernize her military forces on land and sea and each government struggled to outdo the previous. The servicing of foreign loans was suspended, and all non-essential spending was cut.
The Modernist Party was again in power from November 11, 1893 - January 24, 1895. It was during that time that the planning for the 1896 Summer Olympics was begun. Trikoupis was skeptical about the games, fearing that the country could not burden the cost. He was convinced, eventually, to host them, and made the needed arrangements. This would be his last term in office.
Trikoupis tried to make terms with the creditors of his nation, but he failed in this also. The first taxation which he proposed aroused great hostility, and in January, 1895 he resigned. At the 1895 general election, four months later, he and his Modernist Party were defeated and within a year, the only leader the party had ever known was dead.
Corfiot Georgios Theotokis led the party and was Prime Minister from April 14, 1899 – November 25, 1901; June 27, 1903 – July 11, 1903, and December 19, 1903 – December 29, 1904 before winning the 1905 general election and serving as Prime Minister from December 21, 1905 – July 29, 1909. Ousted by the military as a result of the Goudi Movement, Theotokis was the last leader of the Modernist Party. With the arrival of Eleftherios Venizelos in mainland Greece in 1910, most liberal supporters gravitated to his new Komma Fileleftheron.
Leaders of the Party
- Clogg, Richard; A Short History of Modern Greece; Cambridge University Press, 1979; ISBN 0-521-32837-3
- John A. Petropulos; Politics and Statecraft in the Kingdom of Greece; Princeton University Press, 1968