It was eighteen years ago, on June 23, 1996 that Andreas Papandreou, the man who founded a movement – the PASOK Socialists – and set in motion a runaway patronage scheme that bankrupted Greece, passed away. But he hasn’t been forgotten.
Papandreou, an American-educated politician who turned on the United States — at least publicly — and returned to Greece to try to build a dynasty, passed away from a stroke. His party would rival its rivals, the New Democracy Conservatives, to control Greece, but in the end evaporate after agreeing to rule with them.
His death caused widespread sorrow across the country while thousands of people attended his funeral to say goodbye to a provocative man who resurrected many Greeks — giving big pension hikes that ironically are now dismantled with the consent of PASOK.
He fought with the U.S. over NATO and American military bases while putting on a show of defying the United States to curry favor with voters and found himself within a single court vote of being ousted from office over a bank scandal in which it was charged he stole countless millions.
Andreas Papandreou was born in February 5, 1919. He was the son of George Papandreou, who had also served as Prime Minister, and Sofia Mineyko daughter of the Polish aristocrat, Zygmunt Mineyko.
He served two terms as Prime Minister of Greece, from October 21, 1981, to July 2, 1989, and from October 13, 1993 to January 22, 1996.
A poll conducted by Kathimerini newspaper in 2007 showed that the first four years of Papandreou’s government after Metapolitefsi (fall of the junta) were voted as the best government Greece ever had as his party started a hiring binge that went on for decades.
In a poll for the Real News newspaper in 2010 and the research company ALCO in 2013, he was voted as the best prime minister since 1974.
The achievements of his governments include the official recognition of the Greek Resistance against the Axis, the establishment of the National Health System and the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP), the passage of Law 1264/1982 which secured the right to strike and greatly improved the rights of workers.
The Constitutional amendment of 1985–1986 strengthened parliamentarism and reduced the powers of the President of the Hellenic Republic, which today’s New Democracy-PASOK administration wants to bring back.
His governments introduced many progressive reforms such as the legalization of civil marriage, allowing voting for 18-year-olds, introduction of the simple monotonic orthography (1982), changes in family law such as the establishment of gender equality and letting married women keep their family names and the prohibition of anachronistic institution of dowry.
During his terms he enhaced the Greek Armed Forces, recognized the genocide of Greeks of Pontos and granted permission to the refugees of the Greek Civil War to return to Greece.
Apart from being a politician he was also a “star” as the media were very interested in his life. His first wife was Christina Rasia, a Greek American psychologist.
After their divorce he married an American, Margarita Chant, with whom he had four children. His last wife, a stewardess, was Dimitra Liani.
Papandreou also had, with Swedish actress and TV presenter Ragna Nyblom a daughter out of wedlock, Emilia Nyblom.