The ballot for the President of the Hellenic Republic in the past 40 years has not always been a clean affair. Since the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974, nominees for the presidency and election processes have been characterized by secret agreements, conspiracy talks, shady deals and political mischief.
In June 1975, after Greek people had decided against crowned democracy the previous year, the new Greek Constitution is finalized and Prime Minister Constantinos Karamanlis nominated Constantinos Tsatsos, who won the ballot. Tsatsos was the first President of the Hellenic Republic.
After managing to integrate Greece in the European Economic Community, now European Union, Constantinos Karamanlis stepped down from Premiership and ran for President of the Republic. After three eventful ballots, Karamanlis gathered 183 votes and took the seat. A year later, PASOK won the general elections for the first time.
In 1985 and with PASOK in power, there was a war raging between New Democracy and PASOK. Constitution amendments stripped the President from most powers. Karamanlis was certain that he was heading for his second term as PASOK leader Andreas Papandreou had told him that he was the preferred nominee among most of his party’s MPs. However, Papandreou suddenly recommended Supreme Court Judge Christos Sartzetakis for the presidency and Karamanlis resigned embittered, leaving the seat empty.
House President Yiannis Alevras took the seat temporarily, as the Constitution dictates. An argument started whether Alevras had the right to vote in the elections. Sartzetakis received 180 votes in the first ballot, 13 of them from the Greek Communist Party (KKE), the first and last time they voted for a nominee proposed by the ruling party. Two PASOK MPs casted a blank vote.
In the second vote, the Sartzetakis ballots were slightly colored so that all PASOK MPs would conform with the party’s nominee. A special light was placed over the ballot box so that the ballot color was visible. New Democracy President Constantinos Mitsotakis was enraged. New Democracy MP Eleftherios Kalogiannis grabbed the ballot box and took it to the party’s headquarters. The box was returned and Sartzetakis received 182 votes. In the third ballot, Sartzetakis was elected with 181 votes and New Democracy condemned the whole process.
The 1985 Constitution amendment called for open voting in the presidential election. Mitsotakis proposed Constantinos Karamanlis but he refused. Three ballots failed to elect a President. After the April 8, 1990, elections, Karamanlis agreed to accept the nomination. He won by 153 votes, 150 of which were from New Democracy MPs.
PASOK had returned in power a few months earlier and Antonis Samaras was leader of the Political Spring party with ten MPs. Samaras proposed Costis Stefanopoulos for President and drove PASOK to an impasse, since the ruling party did not want to go to snap elections. The move isolated New Democracy who had proposed House President Athanasios Tsaldaris. Stefanopoulos won with 181 votes as PASOK and Political Spring collaborated.
New Democracy won the European Parliament elections in 1999 and used the presidential election as a way to push for snap elections. However, popular Costis Stefanopoulos won another term by 269 votes.
In December 2004, New Democracy with Costas Karamanlis at the helm was ruling the country and the nomination of PASOK stalwart Carolos Papoulias for President surprised everyone. PASOK MPs could not vote against revered Papoulias. This was a strategic move by Karamanlis, who wanted to avoid pressure for snap elections.
Papoulias was re-elected since Greece had gone to snap elections in 2009 and PASOK, under George Papandreou, had won. Papandreou had used the presidential election as a means to force New Democracy to relent. Carolos Papoulias received 266 votes.