Professor's Prologue

The Political Dynasty of the Papandreou Family

By Dr. Rebecca Jones, associate professor and chair of political science

George Papandreou is the third member of his family to serve as prime minister of Greece. His grandfather, Georgios Papandreou, served three terms, and his father, Andreas, served two. Papandreou was first elected as prime minister in 2009, but resigned in November 2011 in the face of continuing opposition to his austerity plans and the continued drastic decline of the Greek economy.

However, he remained leader of his party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), and joined a coalition “unity” government to allow Greece to move forward with accepting an EU bailout in support of the failing economy.

Papandreou’s grandfather, Giorgios Papandreou, served as prime minister in three separate terms: April 1944 – January 1945, November-December 1963, and February 1964 – July 1965. He was forced from office in a party split engineered by the king who objected strongly to Papandreou’s socialist influenced policies. In 1967, when “the colonels entered the capitol”, the Greek military overthrew the democratically elected government and installed a military dictatorship. The military authorities placed Giorgios Papandreou under house arrest, where he died in 1968.

Andreas Papandreou, a professor of economics, moved to the United States in 1938 after avoiding trial for Trotskyism in Greece. He returned to Greece in 1959 and almost immediately entered politics. He was jailed in the military coup, but strong international pressure from other academics, such as John Kenneth Galbraith, resulted in his release. He then went into exile in Europe and the United States. When he returned to Greece in 1974, he reentered politics. He served as prime minister from 1981 – 1989 and 1993 – 1996. Like his father, Giorgios, his terms as prime minister were not consecutive. Unlike his father, however, his terms were lengthy, and his country viewed him as one of its most effective and popular prime ministers.

So far, George Papandreou’s political trajectory has been shorter than that of both his father and grandfather. Although he has endured more controversy than his father, he remains in politics, having been re-elected as head of the Socialist International at its congress in the summer of 2012. If Papandreou family history repeats itself, we should expect to see George Papandreou return to the position of prime minister at a future point in time.

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Reach Professor Jones at: rrjones@mail.widener.edu.

Dr. Hamid Zangeneh