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Named after Eleftherios Venizelos, the key characteristics of Venizelism were:
- Opposition to Monarchy. Despite Venizelos' moderation concerning the institution of monarchy, the struggle between venizelists and pro-monarchist conservatives defined Greek politics during most of the 20th century.
- Alliance with western democratic countries (especially with United Kingdom and France against Germany in World War I and World War II, and the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War). The struggle against King Constantine I to enter World War I on the Triple Entente side was Venizelos' most dramatic (and later, most celebrated) action.
- Support of the Megali Idea, Greek nationalism the aggressive pursuit of incorporation of all Greek-majority lands into Greece. It was the annexation of Crete into Greece that propelled Venizelos (a Cretan himself) into Greek politics.
- Liberal nationalism. Venizelists have been frequently described as nationalists, although in this attribute they did not differ much from their conservative opponents.
- Political, social and economical modernization; mixed economic policies, open economy, emphasizing also the role of the Greek diaspora.
Venizelos' liberal party ruled Greece from 1910 until 1916. That year, determined to enter World War I on the entente side, Venizelos rebelled against the king and formed a provisional government in the north. He regained full control of the country and ruled until losing the 1920 elections.
After a crisis period (including two short-lived pro-Venizelist military governments after Nikolaos Plastiras 1923 coup) the liberals returned to power from 1928 until 1932. Venizelists Sophoklis Venizelos and George Papandreou formed the core of the Greek government in exile during the Axis Occupation of Greece (1941–1944), and held power a number of times in the 1950s.
Georgios Papandreou created the Center Union party in 1961, as a coalition of Venizelists and progressive conservatives. In 1963 the party was elected and held power until 1965, when its right wing broke ranks in the events known as the Apostasia.
Centrist Democratic Union
After the 1967–1974 Junta, Venizelists formed the Center Union-New Forces party, which then evolved into the Union of the Democratic Centre (Greek: ΕΔΗΚ). While the Venizelist legacy was still popular, election results were disappointing as the abolition of the monarchy, the dilution of support for Greek nationalism after the seven years of the junta and the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and Karamanlis' move towards the political center had blurred the differences between the liberals and their former conservative opponents, while the socialist PASOK party was gaining support at the left side of the spectrum.
Although the image of Venizelos is still very popular in Greece today, Venizelism is no longer a major force in Greek politics. Venizelos' prestige however and his ideology's connotations of republicanism, and progressive reforms means that most mainstream political forces claim his political heritage. There are few explicitly "Venizelist" movements today in Greece. In the 2004 elections for the European Parliament, the leading Venizelist party was the Union of Centrists, gaining only 0.54% of the Greek popular vote. An attempted revival of the original Liberal Party, under the same name, was founded in the 1980s by Venizelos' grandson.
Against Venizelos' policy were united politicians of different political orientation during the 1910s. Some of their common points was the criticism against Venizelos' extreme philo-Entente policy during World War I, their disagreement concerning his policy about the Megali idea and its results (regarding the relations with Turkey and the Greeks who were still under Ottoman sovereignty) and later the population exchange. Another common point of the Antivenizelists was a hesitation about the country's social and economical modernization.