Former PM Konstantinos Mitsotakis dies at 99
Konstantinos Mitsotakis (31 October 1918 − 29 May 2017) was a Greek politician who was Prime Minister of Greece from 1990 to 1993. He graduated in law and economics from the University of Athens.
Mitsotakis was born in Halepa village, Chania, Crete, inside an already powerful political family, linked to Eleftherios Venizelos on both sides. His grandfather Kostis MitsotakisΚόμμα των Ξυπολήτων) with Venizelos, and married the latter’s sister, Katigo Venizelou, Constantine’s grandmother. The 1878 Pact of Halepa, granting an Ottoman Crete a certain level of autonomy, was signed in his very home. His father Kyriakos Mitsotakis (1883–1944) , also MP for Chania in the Greek Parliament (1915–20) and leader of the Cretan volunteers in the First Balkan War, married Stavroula Ploumidaki, daughter of Charalambos Ploumidakis , the first Christian mayor of Chania and an MP at the time of the Cretan State, himself a first cousin of Eleftherios Venizelos.(1845-1898), a lawyer, journalist and short-time MP of Ottoman Crete, founded the Liberal Party, then “Party of the Barefeet” (
Mitsotakis was married to Marika Mitsotakis (née Giannoukou) from 1953 until her death on 6 May 2012. They had four children. His son, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is the leader of ND since January 2016 (a position previously held by Konstantinos Mitsotakis), and was a government minister in 2013-15. His first daughter, Dora Bakoyannis, ND Member of Parliament, founder and president of Democratic Alliance party, was the mayor of Athens (2003-2006) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009. His second daughter Alexandra Mitsotakis Gourdain is a Greek civil society activist. His third daughter is Katerina Mitsotakis.
Mitsotakis’s interests outside politics include Cretan antiquities and a passion for preserving the environment. He developed a large collection of Minoan and other Cretan antiquities, which he and his wife donated to the Greek state. He is also very interested to promote the reforesting of Greece, including in particular the mountains of Crete.
He was elected to the Greek Parliament for the first time in 1946, standing for the Liberal Party in his native prefecture of Chania, Crete. He followed most of the old Liberal Party into Georgios Papandreou’s Center Union in 1961. But in 1965 he led a group of dissidents, known as the “July apostates” or “apostasia”, who crossed the floor to bring about the fall of Papandreou’s government, which earned him the long-time hatred of Papandreou loyalists as well as a significant part of Greek society. He was arrested in 1967 by the military junta but managed to escape to Turkey with a help of Foreign minister of Turkey Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil and lived in exile with his family in Paris, France, 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 founder-leader of the small Party of New Liberals and in 1978 he merged his party with Constantine Karamanlis’s 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 (New Democracy) government was defeated by Andreas Papandreou’s PASOK in 1981, and in 1984 Mitsotakis succeeded Evangelos Averoff 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.
Mitsotakis soundly defeated Papandreou, embroiled in the Bank of Crete scandal, in the June 1989 election. PASOK lost 36 seats in one of the largest defeats of a sitting government in modern Greek history. However, in a controversial move, Papandreou’s government had modified the election system a few months earlier to require a party to win 50 percent of the vote in order to govern alone. Thus, Mitsotakis was unable to form a government even though ND was the clear first-place party, with 20 more seats than PASOK. He was unable to garner support from the six MPs he needed to form a government, so Court of Cassation president Yannis Grivas became acting prime minister and presided over new elections in November 1989. This election yielded the same result as in June. ND finished 20 seats ahead of PASOK, but was still just short of forming a government.
After another period of deadlock, fresh elections in April 1990 produced another landslide ND victory, but still left Mitsotakis unable to govern alone. After the lone MP from Democratic Renewal agreed to go into coalition, Mitsotakis finally became Prime Minister. Thus, despite winning one of the most decisive victories in modern Greek history (27 seats ahead of PASOK), Mitsotakis’ government was very weak on paper, with a majority of only one vote.
Mitsotakis’s government moved swiftly to cut government spending as much as possible, privatise state enterprises and reform the civil service. In foreign policy, Mitsotakis took the initiative to have Greece formally recognize the state of Israel, and moved to reopen talks on American 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 since the Metapolitefsi. 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 the Cyprus dispute a prerequisite for improvement on other issues.
Papandreou, cleared of charges arising from the Bank of Crete scandal in a 7–6 vote at the Eidiko Dikastirio (Special Court), criticised Mitsotakis’s government for its economic policies, for not taking a sufficiently strict position over the naming dispute with the newly independent Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Mitsotakis favored a composite name such as “Nova Macedonia”, for which he was accused at the time of being too lenient) as well as over Cyprus, and for being too pro-American. The heightened public irritation over the Macedonia naming issue caused several ND parliament members, led by Antonis Samaras, to withdraw their support from Mitsotakis’s government and form a new political party, Political Spring. Mitsotakis’s 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 7 March election, 58 years after his first election.
On 6 January 1992, he was appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), at the time Australia’s highest civilian honour, “for eminent service to Australian/Greek relations”.
Mitsotakis died on 29 May 2017 in Athens, aged 98.