The mortality of Andreas Papandreou Giant of Greek politics: Resignation ends an era long after his issues faded.

January 17, 1996

AN EPOCH OF GREEK POLITICS ended Monday when Andreas Papandreou recovered sufficiently at 76 from eight weeks at death's door with lung and kidney failure to recognize that he could no longer carry on as prime minister.

His resignation set off a scramble would-be successors. Whatever stopgap government his Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) patches together will rule into next year, when an election must be held.

The issues on which Mr. Papandreou polarized opinion in the 1980s, opposition to American hegemony and to the European Union, were moot when he returned to power in 1993. For the past three years he has been prime minister for the sake of being prime minister. He had overcome scandals of adultery and corruption to climb triumphantly back to power, capping a career that brought jail and exile after the military coup in 1967. But his resignation probably means little in a policy sense.

His attempt to play NATO off against the Soviet bloc, and radical Arabs off against the U.S., coincided with Soviet disintegration. What is now the European Union (EU), which he denounced, not only funded his policies but became what all Eastern Europe wanted to join.

The obsolescence of his issues, his own marital infidelity and allegations of corruption cost him the elections of 1989 and 1990. Yet he was acquitted in a corruption trial and, remarried to the glamorous Dimitra Liane, won the election of 1993. He advanced his second wife's political career as his father had his.

At the end of this second prime ministry, the issues were his personal magnetism, his colleagues' dislike of his wife, the urgency of piloting Greece safely past the tragedy of former Yugoslavia and the goal of matching Portugal's and Spain's economic growth in the EU. His ideology was already over. Greece is unlikely again soon to endure so dominant a political personality, and is better off for that.

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