Politics of Greece

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The politics of Greece takes place in a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Greece is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Hellenic Parliament. Between the restoration of democracy in 1974 and the Greek government-debt crisis the party system was dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

The Constitution of Greece, which describes Greece as a "presidential parliamentary republic", includes extensive specific guarantees of civil liberties and vests the powers of the head of state in a president elected by parliament. The Greek governmental structure is similar to that found in many other Western democracies, and has been described as a compromise between the French and German models. The prime minister and cabinet play the central role in the political process, while the president perform some executive and legislative functions in addition to ceremonial duties. Voting in Greece is compulsory but is not enforced.[1]

Executive branch

The Cabinet of Greece, which is the main organ of the government, includes the heads of all executive ministries, appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister.

President

The President of the Republic is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term (election last held 13 March 2015), and a maximum of two terms in office. When a presidential term expires, Parliament votes to elect the new President. In the first two votes, a ​23 majority (200 votes) is necessary. The third and final vote requires a ​35 (180 votes) majority.

If the third vote is fruitless, Parliament is dissolved and elections are proclaimed by the outgoing President within the next 30 days. In the new Parliament, the election for President is repeated immediately with a 3/5 majority required for the initial vote, an absolute majority for the second one (151 votes) and a simple majority for the third and final one. The system is so designed as to promote consensus presidential candidates among the main political parties.

The president has the power to declare war, to grant pardon (forgiveness) and to conclude agreements of peace, alliance, and participation in international organizations; upon the request of the government a simple parliamentary majority is required to confirm such actions, agreements, or treaties. An absolute or a three-fifths majority is required in exceptional cases (for example, the accession into the EU needed a 3/5 majority).

The president can also exercise certain emergency powers, which must be countersigned by the appropriate cabinet minister. The president may not dissolve parliament, dismiss the government, suspend certain articles of the constitution, issue a proclamation or declare a state of siege without countersigning by the prime minister or the appropriate cabinet minister. To call a referendum, he must obtain approval from parliament.

Prime minister

The prime minister is elected by the Parliament and he or she is usually the leader of the party controlling the absolute majority of MPs. According to the Constitution, the prime minister safeguards the unity of the government and directs its activities. He or she is the most powerful person of the Greek political system and recommends ministers to the President for appointment or dismissal.

Maintaining the support of parliament

Greek parliamentary politics hinge upon the principle of the "δεδηλωμένη" (pronounced "dhedhilomeni"), the "declared confidence" of Parliament to the Prime Minister and his/her administration. This means that the President of the Republic is bound to appoint, as Prime Minister, a person who will be approved by a majority of the Parliament's members (i.e. 151 votes). With the current electoral system, it is the leader of the party gaining a plurality of the votes in the Parliamentary elections who gets appointed Prime Minister.

An administration may at any time seek a "vote of confidence". Conversely a number of Members of Parliament may ask that a "vote of reproach" be taken. Both are rare occurrences with usually predictable outcomes as voting outside the party line happens very seldom.

On 4 October 2009, George Papandreou, president of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement party and son and grandson of Prime Ministers, was elected as the new Prime Minister of Greece, following five years of government under New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis, the nephew of long-time Prime Minister and President Konstantinos Karamanlis.