A pop­u­lar mod­er­ate politi­cian

De­spite fail­ure to win ND lead­er­ship, he suc­cess­fully served two terms as pres­i­dent

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY COSTANTINOS ZOULAS

Vet­eran conservative politi­cian Costis Stephanopou­los, who served two terms as pres­i­dent of Greece, died late Sun­day at the Henry Du­nant Hos­pi­tal in Athens from “com­pli­ca­tions of pneu­mo­nia.” He had been ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal on Thurs­day with se­vere res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems.

Stephanopou­los had turned 90 on Au­gust 15. Born in Pa­tra in 1926, he was the son of lawyer and politi­cian Dim­itris Stephanopou­los and of Vrisi­ida Filopoulou (her­self the daugh­ter of jour­nal­ist Con­stanti­nos Filopou­los).

Stephanopou­los stud­ied law in Athens and, af­ter re­turn­ing to Pa­tra, worked as a lawyer from 1954 to 1975. He got into politics in 1958 with the Na­tional Rad­i­cal Union (ERE), a conservative right-wing po­lit­i­cal party founded by the late Con­stan­tine Kara­man­lis. He was first elected to Par­lia­ment in 1964.

Af­ter the end of Greece’s mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship in 1974, Stephanopou­los be­came deputy trade min­is­ter in the na­tional unity gov­ern­ment un­der Kara­man­lis. He later served as min­is­ter of the in­te­rior and so­cial ser­vices un­til 1977. In the same year, he was re-elected Pa­tra MP. Stephanopou­los took over as civil ser­vice min­is­ter. By that time, he was al­ready con­sid­ered as one of New Democ­racy’s lead­ing cadres.

Af­ter Kara­man­lis was in­stalled as Greek pres­i­dent and Ge­or­gios Ral­lis lost the 1981 elec­tions, Stephanopou­los ran as a can­di­date for the New Democ­racy lead­er­ship, even­tu­ally los­ing the race to Evan­ge­los Averoff. In 1984, he again sought the ND lead- er­ship as Averoff quit af­ter the PASOK so­cial­ists won the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions. Stephanopou­los was a run­ner-up to Con­stan­tine Mit­so­takis, the fa­ther of the cur­rent conservative chief.

Af­ter ND lost a sec­ond na­tional elec­tion to PASOK in 1985, Stephanopou­los went on to form the Demo­cratic Re­newal (DIANA) splin­ter party with an­other nine conservative deputies. It was then that Averoff fa­mously said that “any sheep that leaves the fold ends up get­ting eaten by the wolf.”

Nev­er­the­less, the party man­aged to en­ter Par­lia­ment in the three bal­lots that took place in the late 1980s (mainly thanks to a new elec­toral law passed by then PASOK min­is­ter Akis Tsochat­zopou­los). In the last elec­tion how­ever, only one DIANA deputy was elected – and that was not Stephanopou­los but Theodoros Kat­sikis. Stephanopou­los de­cided to work with his peren­nial ri­val, Mit­so­takis, so that ND would gather the nec­es­sary 151 seats.

DIANA failed to elected a sin­gle MEP in the 1994 Euro elec­tions, a re­sult that prompted Stephanopou­los to dis­solve the party. A year later, he was nom­i­nated pres­i­dent by An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, who was at the time leader of Po­lit­i­cal Spring, an­other ND splin­ter party. Stephanopou­los was elected with an over­whelm­ing 181 votes (also with back­ing from PASOK), suc­ceed­ing Kara­man­lis in March 1995. In 2000, he was re-elected with 269 votes (161 from PASOK, 101 from ND and seven in­de­pen­dents) be­fore pass­ing the helm to Karo­los Papou­lias in 2005.

Stephanopou­los was widely re­garded as one of Greece’s most pop­u­lar politi­cians. Among the high­lights of his ca­reer was his speech dur­ing US Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s 1999 visit to Athens, where he made a case for Greece’s fair na­tional claims. The speech was brought back to col­lec­tive mem­ory dur­ing the visit by out­go­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama last week.

In Novem­ber 2000, Stephanopou­los re­ceived an hon­orary doc­tor­ate from the Law School of the University of Athens, and in Fe­bru­ary 2005, he was named an hon­orary mem­ber of the Academy of Athens. He re­ceived sev­eral hon­ors and awards from for­eign coun­tries and he is an hon­orary cit­i­zen of many com­mu­ni­ties and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. His funeral will take place at Aghios Dimitrios Church in Palaio Psy­chico at 2 p.m. to­day.

Costis Stephanopou­los won wide pop­u­lar­ity with his mod­esty and lack of bom­bast. He main­tained good re­la­tions across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

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