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The Greek plebiscite of 29 July 1973 was held by the then ruling dictatorial regime under Georgios Papadopoulos and resulted in the abolition of monarchy and the establishment of a Republic, initiating the first period of the Metapolitefsi.

Background

The military junta had ruled Greece since a group of middle-ranking officers, under the leadership of Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos, staged a coup on 21 April 1967. King Constantine II reluctantly endorsed the coup, but started preparing for a counter-coup by elements of the armed forces loyal to him. This counter-coup was launched on 13 December 1967 and failed, forcing the King and the royal family to flee to Italy. Greece remained a Kingdom, and the King's functions were exercised by a Regent, a post held until 1972 by General Georgios Zoitakis, and then assumed by an increasingly dominant Papadopoulos, who also held the position of Prime Minister and several ministerial posts.

In May 1973, however, a wide-ranging anti-junta movement was discovered and suppressed, just before its outbreak, among the ranks of the mostly royalist Navy. One ship, however, the destroyer Velos did actually mutiny, and upon reaching Italy, the captain Nikolaos Pappas and 31 officers and crew disembarked and asked for political asylum, creating world-wide interest. The failed Navy revolt demonstrated that even after six years of junta "normality", the opposition had not died off, and that it existed even amongst large parts of the armed forces, which were the regime's main internal supporter. This revelation created a major crisis for the junta leadership.

Papadopoulos was thus forced to act, in a move which would bolster his own authority, get rid of the King, and appear as moving into the direction of genuine reforms. On 1 June, a Constituent Act was proclaimed, which declared Greece a presidential republic, with Papadopoulos as President. The Act was to be confirmed by a plebiscite, which was held on 29 July 1973. The defunct political parties and their leaders urged for a "No" as a sign of opposition to the regime, but the vote was tightly controlled by the junta, and the results were predictably favourable to the regime.

Summary of the 29 July 1973 Greek Plebiscite Votes
No.
YES (NAI) 3,870,124 78.4
NO (OXI) 1,064,300 21.6
Valid votes 4,934,424
Invalid votes
Total number of votes
Registered voters 5,840,000

Aftermath

Papadopoulos promised a return to democratic and parliamentary rule, based on the provisions of the new Constitution, and appointed Spyros Markezinis as Prime Minister. His attempt at controlled democratization failed after the Athens Polytechnic uprising and the hardliners' coup under Dimitrios Ioannides that followed. The forms of the Republic were maintained until the final collapse of the junta in August 1974, and on 8 December 1974, another plebiscite was held, in which the Greek people confirmed the abolition of the monarchy, and the establishment of the current Third Hellenic Republic.

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