Greece’s government is led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis
The Changing of the Guard in front of the Hellenic Parliament takes place every day, rain or shine, and every hour on the hour. Presidential Guards or Evzones guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Copyright by Giannis Giannelos

GovernmentStructure

  • Government Structure Stats Icon 1
    4 yrs

    Frequency of general elections, unless Parliament is dissolved prior

  • Government Structure Stats Icon 2
    300

    Number of deputies in the Hellenic Parliament

  • Government Structure Stats Icon 3
    7 July 2019

    Date of Greece’s last general election

  • Government Structure Stats Icon 4
    2001

    Year Greece adopted the euro, after joining the European Union in 1981

Greece, Hellas, Ellada, or the Hellenic Republic - a country known by several names but for its one big contribution to western civilisation: it's the birthplace of democracy. Today, the country's Parliament, which represents the people, has a key role in the running of the country. The legislature exercises control over the government, while also passing laws. Greece has a President, but he is largely a ceremonial figure, as the country's Prime Minister and his cabinet are the real decision-makers. Despite being located geographically at the edge of Europe in the south, Greece finds itself at the core of the European Union and the eurozone.
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Greek Government Structure

The country’s prime minister and his 51-member cabinet lead the country in its common course with the European Union.

Greece is a parliamentary republic with a population of 10.8 million. Once a monarchy, a referendum in 1974 resulted in the establishment of an official republic. In 1981, the country became a member of the European Union, and in 2001 it traded in its drachma, a currency dating back to ancient times, for the recently released euro.

First, some modern history

The restoration of democracy in July 1974 was a defining moment in the country’s modern political history, following the collapse of the dictatorial seven-year military junta that ruled the country since 1967. Commonly known as the “colonels’ coup,” Brigaider General Stylianos Pattakos, Colonel George Papadopoulos, and Colonel Nikolaos Makarezos commanded a military takeover, which they claimed aimed to save Greece from encroaching communist danger.

Often, when Greeks refer to political or government issues relating to the last few decades, they refer to one of two periods: before, or after, the military regime. The ‘metapolitefsi’, meaning political changeover, is the period after the collapse of the colonels’ coup in 1974.

A transitional period began with the formation of a national unity government under Konstantinos Karamanlis, who returned to Greece from self-imposed exile in Paris. He had been Prime Minister of Greece during the late 1950s and early 1960.

Three major decisions were taken by this caretaker government: first, to organise free parliamentary elections to elect a constitutional assembly; second, to organise a referendum to decide whether Greece should retain its monarchy; third, to legalise the previously banned Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

The junta leaders were sentenced to life in prison. Karamanlis, who was Prime Minister four times, and President of the Hellenic Republic twice, is widely credited with Greece’s eventual accession into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1981.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou was elected Greece’s frst female president in January 2020, and is set to take up the position in March. Copyright Hellenic Parliament / Eleftheriou Aliki

President

The president is elected by parliament every five years and is the head of state. Conservative New Democracy party-veteran Prokopis Pavlopoulos was appointed in March 2015 with a term expiration of 2020. In a landmark move, high court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou was elected Greece’s first female president in January 2020 with an overwhelming majority of parliamentary votes. She is set to take up the position in March.

The presidency is largely a ceremonial post as most power lies with the prime minister and the government. The president’s duties include formally appointing the prime minister, on whose recommendation he/she also appoints or dismisses other members of government. He/she represents the state in its relations to other countries and proclaims referendums, among holding other responsibilities.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses Parliament. Copyright Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

Prime Minister

The prime minister is the head of the government in Greece. Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the country’s Prime Minister. His party, New Democracy, won a majority in Greece’s national elections on 7 July 2019.

The prime minister leads the ministerial council, which is the collective decision-making body constituting the government of Greece. Currently, Greece’s ministerial council is made up of 51 members. The country’s ministries are:

A session of the Hellenic Parliament. Copyright Hellenic Parliament / Spyros Tsakiris

Parliament

The Hellenic Parliament is the supreme democratic institution that represents Greek citizens through an elected body of Members of Parliament (MPs). Their core activity is legislative work and the exercise of control over the government.

The body consists of 300 deputies elected for a term of four years, by citizens who are eligible to vote, through a direct, secret, and simultaneous ballot. Voting is compulsory. The parliament is headed by the speaker.

Structure of the Hellenic Parliament 2019, 2020

Elections

General elections are held every four years unless parliament is dissolved earlier. The electorate consists of all Greek citizens who are 18 years of age and older. Following a general election, or after the previous government’s resignation, each new government has to appear before parliament to request a vote of confidence.

In Greece’s last elections, July 2019, conservatives New Democracy won 39.9% of the vote, earning the party 158 seats in parliament and an outright majority, following almost a decade of coalition governments. Left-wing Syriza was supported by 31.5% of voters (86 seats), and centre-left Movement for Change (KINAL) received 8.1% of the votes (22 seats).

A significant change to the Greek political map took place at the July 2019 elections: the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party did not receive enough support to pass the 3% threshold needed to enter parliament. The party had been elected continually into parliament since 2012.

Until recently, Greek politics were dominated by two parties: centre-right New Democracy and centre-left Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Other parties won far fewer seats.

This changed in 2012 when Syriza overtook PASOK as the main force of the left wing. After almost three years of opposition to the New Democracy-PASOK coalition government, Syriza took power in the January 2015 elections and formed government.

The left-wing party went on to win another round of elections in September 2015.

Parties that have governed Greece since 1974

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  1. 1974

    New Democracy

  2. 1977

    New Democracy

  3. 1981

    PASOK

  4. 1985

    PASOK

  5. 1989 (June)

    New Democracy and left-wing Synaspismos

  6. 1989 (November)

    New Democracy, PASOK and Synaspismos

  7. 1990

    New Democracy

  8. 1993

    PASOK

  9. 1996

    PASOK

  10. 2000

    PASOK

  11. 2004

    New Democracy

  12. 2007

    New Democracy

  13. 2009

    PASOK

  14. 2012

    New Democracy, PASOK, Democratic Left

  15. 2015 (January)

    Syriza, Independent Greeks

  16. 2015 (September)

    Syriza, Independent Greeks

  17. 2019

    New Democracy

Copyright: Hadrian / Shutterstock.com

In Europe

Greece has been a member of the European Union since January 1981. Its EU membership has a big impact on the way the country is run and how it deals with other Member States.

Athens has an active role in several decision-making bodies in Brussels:

  • Greece is a member of the Schengen region, an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished all types of border control, including passport, at their mutual borders.
  • 21 members of the European Parliament are from Greece.
  • In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Depending on the policy area being addressed, council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Greek government.
  • Greece has 12 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers, and other interest groups – is consulted about proposed laws in order to get a better idea of possible consequences for work and social situations within member countries.

Breakdown of Greece’s finances with the EU in 2017

Total EU spending in Greece: €5.1 billion.
Total EU spending as a percentage of Greek gross national income (GNI): 2.88%.
Total Greek contribution to the EU budget: €1.2 billion.
Greek contribution to the EU budget as a percentage of its GNI: 0.7%.
Copyright: HQuality / Shutterstock.com

Banking system

The Bank of Greece (BoG) is the country’s central bank. Yannis Stournaras, Governor of the Bank of Greece, was appointed in June 2014.

Since January 2001, the BoG has been an integral part of the Eurosystem, which consists of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks of all other EU member states participating in the euro area. This implies that the BoG contributes, through its activities, to the achievement of the objectives and the performance of the tasks of the Eurosystem, which defines and implements monetary policy in the euro area.

The ECB is also involved in setting interest rates at which it lends to commercial banks in the eurozone, thus controlling the money supply while also managing the eurozone’s foreign currency reserves.

In the performance of its tasks, the BoG is independent and accountable to the Greek Parliament.

In Athens, the commercial banking system is dominated by four lenders, Piraeus Bank, National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, and Eurobank. In the run-up to Greece’s adoption of the euro, a wave of consolidation activity took place in the sector, leading to its concentration. Today, the top four banks control more than 90% of Greece’s banking market.

Constitution

The Constitution of Greece is the fundamental Charter of the State. It was created by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes in 1975 after the fall of the Greek military junta. The Constitution has been revised four times: in 1986, 2001, 2008 and, most recently, in 2019.

Judiciary

Greece’s Constitution firmly establishes the independence of the justice system and specifies three categories of courts: civil, penal, and administrative.

The basic courts in the country’s justice system are the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. The Council of State is the supreme administrative court of Greece, while the Court of Audit has jurisdiction on the audit of the expenditures of the state, local government agencies, and other legal entities.

Regions and Municipalities

At the local government level, Greece is divided into 325 municipalities grouped into 13 regions. The regions are: Eastern Macedonia, Thrace, Central Macedonia, Western Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Central Greece, Ionian Islands, Western Greece, Peloponnese, Northern Aegean, Southern Aegean, and Crete.

The local government went through a large reform in 2011 with the Kallikratis Programme. This programme focused on restructuring local government and reducing the number of municipalities (from 1,034 to 325), as well as transferring new functions to the councils. The previous major reforms programme to affect local government took place in 1997. Local government elections for councils and regions were held on May 2019.

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