Former Prime Minister of Greece (1990-1993), Konstantinos Mitsotakis died last Monday (29.5.2017) at the age of 98. He had been one of the most influential figures in Greek politics in several decades. He was born in the city of Chania, on the island of Crete, in 1918, into a powerful political family, linked to prominent statesman Eleftherios Venizelos (his grandfather Kostis Mitsotakis, a lawyer, journalist and short-time MP of Ottoman Crete, founded the Liberal Party, then “Party of the Barefeet” with Venizelos). He studied law and political science at the University of Athens. During the Nazi occupation of Greece, he took part in the resistance and was twice sentenced to death.
Konstantinos Mitsotakis’ long parliamentary career spanned some 60 years, until his retirement in 2004. It began in 1946 with his election as a centrist MP for the Liberal Party, and was interrupted only for ten years during and immediately after the period of the military dictatorship (1967-1974) in Greece. He undisputedly played a significant role in the downfall of the George Papandreou centrist government in the summer of 1965, en event known in Greek political history as “the July apostasy”, which led to a period of instability and the military coup of April 21, 1967. Mitsotakis was arrested and later fled into exile in Paris. After the restitution of democracy in Greece, he sought his place in a new political chessboard.
He formed the small “party of the neoliberals” in 1977 (meant to be guided by the principles of Venizelos Liberal party), but, the following year, joined the governing New Democracy party, the conservative party which for four decades, alternated with PASOK in goverming Greece. Mitsotakis took over ND’s leadership in 1984. During the 1980’s, the political climate was extemely polarized, and this was expressed by the fierce opposition between Mitsotakis as leader of the opposition and the Prime Minister and PASOK leader Andreas Papandreou. In the 1989 election, and as a result of hung parliament, a coalition government was formed between New Democracy led by Mitsotakis and the traditional communist Left, in order to tackle a series of scandals conncected with the PASOK administration.
Once elected prime minister in 1990, Mitsotakis pursued a policy of privatizations without, however managing to reduce the public debt. His government lost the 1993 election to its rival PASOK, on the backdrop of a dispute over the name issue of the FYROM, an issue that to this day remains unresolved between FYROM and Greece.
Mitsotakis’ retired from parliamentary life in 2004, but did not in any way withdraw from political life, given that the former Prime Minister was Honourary President of his New Democracy party, remaining politically active, with frequent public interventions. His son, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is the current leader of New Democracy, while one of his daughters, Dora Bakoyannis, has served as minister of Foreign Affairs, was Mayor of Athens during the 2004 Olympic Games and has been member of parliament some 30 years.
His family announced the death, saying Mitsotakis was “surrounded by those whom he loved. “ Konstantinos Mitsotakis will be buried Thursday (1.6.2017) in his hometown of Chania.
The death of Konstantinos Mitsotakis marks the end of an era in the nation’s political history, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said while describing the late conservative politician as a man that “shaped modern Greece.” President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos said Mitsotakis had left an indelible mark on the political life of Greece.
J.L. & N.N.