Venizelism

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Venizelism was one of the major political movements in Greece from the 1900s until the mid 1970s.

Named after Eleftherios Venizelos, the key characteristics of Venizelism were:

  • Opposition to Monarchy. The struggle between Venizelists and pro-monarchist conservatives defined Greek politics during most of the 20th Century.
  • Support of the Megali Idea, the aggressive pursuit of incorporation of all Greek-majority lands into Greece. It was the annexation of Crete into Greece that propelled Venizelos (a Cretan himself) into Greek politics.
  • Alliances with western democratic states (especially with France against Germany in World War I and World War II, and the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War). The struggle against King Constantine I to enter World War I on the Triple Entente side was Venizelos' most dramatic (and later, most celebrated) action.
  • The Venizelos' dynasty. Relatives of Venizelos (including the Mitsotakis family) have played major roles in all Venizelist parties.
  • Protectionism in support of the local economy against foreign businesses.

Venizelists have also been frequently described as nationalists, although in this attribute they did not differ much from their conservative opponents.

Venizelos' liberal party ruled Greece from 1910 until 1916. That year Venizelos, determined to enter WWI on the entente side, rebelled against the king, and formed a provisional government in the north. He regained full control of the country and ruled until losing the 1920 elections. After a crisis period (including two short-lived pro-Venizelist military governments after Nikolaos Plastiras 1923 coup) the liberals returned to power from 1928 until 1932. Venizelists Sophoklis Venizelos and George Papandreou formed the core of the Greek government in exile during the German occupation of Greece (1941-1944), and held power a number of times in the 1950s. In 1963 the venizelist Center Union Party was elected and held power until 1965.

After the 1967-1974 Junta, Venizelists formed the Centrist Democratic Union (EDIK, Greek: ΕΔΗΚ) party, but the abolishion of the monarchy, the dilution of support for the Megali Idea after the 1974 Cyprus Invasion, and Caramanlis' move towards the political center had blurred the differences between the liberals and their former conservative opponents, while the Democratic socialist PASOK party was gaining support at the left side of the spectrum.

In 1984, Constantine Mitsotakis became the leader of Caramanlis' conservative New Democracy party, marking for all practical purposes the merger of the two former rival ideologies against PASOK.

Although the image of Venizelos is still very popular in Greece today, Venizelism is no longer a major force in Greek politics. In the 2004 elections for the European Parliament, the leading Venizelist party was the Union of Centrists, gaining only 0.54% of the Greek popular vote.

See also