Constantine Mitsotakis

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Constantine Mitsotakis (in Greek Konstantinos Mitsotakis) (October 18, 1918) - May 29, 2017), was a Greek politician, born in Chania, Crete. Like most Greek politicians, he came from a political family: his father and grandfathers were members of parliament, and the great liberal leader Eleftherios Venizelos was his uncle. As a young man he took part in the Cretan resistance against the German occupation. He graduated in law and economics from the University of Athens and was elected to the Greek Parliament in 1946.

As a relative of Venizelos, Mitsotakis was a traditional Greek liberal, and a member of Georgios Papandreou's Center Union Party. But in 1965 he led a group of dissidents known as the "July apostates" who crossed the floor to bring about the fall of Papandreou's government, which earned him the undying hatred of Papandreou loyalists. He was arrested in 1967 by the military junta but managed to escape and lived in exile until his return in 1974.

In 1974 he campaigned as an independent and failed to be elected to Parliament. He was re-elected in 1977 as member of the small "Party of New Liberals" and in 1978 he joined Constantine Karamanlis' New Democracy party. He served as minister for economic coordination from 1978 to 1980, and as minister for foreign affairs from 1980 to 1981.

The ND government was defeated by Andreas Papandreou's PASOK in 1981, and in 1984 Mitsotakis succeeded Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza as ND leader. He and Andreas Papandreou, the son of George Papandreou, dominated Greek politics for the next decade: their mutual dislike dated back to the fall of George Papandreou's government in 1965. Papandreou, embroiled in the Bank of Crete scandal, lost his parliamentary majority in the elections of June 1989, but despite ND's clear placement as a first party, Mitsotakis was unable to form a government. The reason was that in a controversial move, Papandreou's government had modified the election system a few months earlier, so that no one-party government could be formed unless the first party gathered 50% of the vote. After a period of parliamentary deadlock, fresh elections in April 1990 produced a narrow ND parliamentary majority, and Mitsotakis became Prime Minister. Therefore, despite having won one of the most decisive victories in Greek modern political history, his government's parliamentary support was however fragile, depending on a single parliament member.

Mitsotakis's government moved swiftly to cut government spending, privatise state enterprises and reform the civil service. In foreign policy, Mitsotakis moved to reopen talks on United States bases in Greece and to restore confidence among Greece's economic and political partners. In June 1990, Mitsotakis became the first Greek premier to visit the United States in 26 years. He promised to meet Greece's NATO obligations, to prevent use of Greece as a base for terrorism, and to stop the rhetorical attacks on the United States that had been Papandreou's hallmark. Mitsotakis also supported a new dialogue with Turkey, but made progress on Cyprus a prerequisite for improvement on other issues.

Papandreou, cleared of charges arising from the Bank of Crete scandal in a 4-3 vote at the Eidiko Dikastirio (a special jury that is particularly set up in Greece in cases of charged politicians), criticised Mitsotakis's government for its economic policies, for not taking a sufficiently Greek nationalist position over Macedonia and Cyprus and for being too pro-American. The heightened nationalism over the Macedonia issue with the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of "Macedonia" caused several ND parliament members, led by Antonis Samaras, to withdraw their support from Mitsotakis' government and form a new political party, Politiki Anoiksi. Mitsotakis' government had already restored the election system back to its original form, which allowed Papandreou's PASOK to obtain clear parliamentary majority after winning the premature 1993 elections and return to office. Mitsotakis then resigned as ND leader, although he remained the party's honorary chairman.

In January 2004 Mitsotakis announced that he would retire from Parliament at the March 7 elections, 56 years after his first election.

He died in the early hours of May 29, 2017.

His son, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is the leader of ND in Parliament and his daughter, Dora Bakoyannis, is a former Foreign Minister of Greece. Mitsotakis's main interest outside politics was Cretan antiquities. He developed a large collection of Minoan and other Cretan antiquities, which he later donated to the Greek state.

Preceded by:
Xenophon Zolotas
Prime Minister of Greece
Succeeded by:
Andreas Papandreou

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