The 1975 constitution, 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 and advised by the Council of the Republic. The Greek governmental structure is similar to that found in many 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 performs some governmental functions in addition to ceremonial duties.
The president is elected by parliament to a 5-year term and can be reelected once. The president has the power to declare war and to conclude agreements of peace, alliance, and participation in international organizations; upon the request of the government a three-fifths parliamentary majority is required to ratify such actions, agreements, or treaties. The president also can exercise certain emergency powers, which must be countersigned by the appropriate cabinet minister. Changes to the constitution in 1986 limited the president's political powers. As a result, the president may not dissolve parliament, dismiss the government, suspend certain articles of the constitution, or declare a state of siege. To call a referendum, he must obtain approval from parliament.
Parliamentary deputies are elected by secret ballot for a maximum of 4 years, but elections can be called earlier. Greece uses a complex reinforced proportional representation electoral system which discourages splinter parties and makes a parliamentary majority possible even if the leading party falls short of a majority of the popular vote. A party must receive 3% of the total national vote to qualify for parliamentary seats.
Greece is divided into 51 prefectures, each headed by a prefect, who is elected by direct popular vote. There are also 13 regional administrative districts (peripheries), each including a number of prefectures and headed by a regional governor (periferiarch), appointed by the Minister of the Interior. In northern Greece and in greater Athens, three areas have an additional administrative position between the nomarch and periferiarch. This official, known as the president of the prefectural local authorities or "super nomarch," is elected by direct popular vote. Although municipalities and villages have elected officials, they do not have an adequate independent tax base and must depend on the central government for a large part of their financial needs. Consequently they are subject to numerous central government controls.
The Government and Education, Religion, and the Media Education
Under the Greek constitution, education is the responsibility of the state. Most Greeks attend public primary and secondary schools. There are a few private schools, which must meet the standard curriculum of and be supervised by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education oversees and directs every aspect of the public education process at all levels, including hiring all teachers and professors and producing all required textbooks.
The Greek Orthodox Church is under the protection of the state, which pays the clergy's salaries, and Orthodox Christianity is the "prevailing" religion of Greece according to the constitution. The Greek Orthodox Church is self-governing but under the spiritual guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul.
The Muslim minority, concentrated in Thrace, was given legal status by provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and is Greece's only officially recognized minority.
The Greek media, collectively, is a very influential institution--usually aggressive, sensationalist, and frequently irresponsible with regard to content. Objectivity as known to the U.S. media on the whole does not exist in the Greek media. Most of the media are owned by businessmen with extensive commercial interests in other sectors of the economy. They use their newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV channels to promote their commercial enterprises as well as to seek political influence.
In 1994, the Ministry of Press and Information was established to deal with media and communication issues. ERT S.A.--a public corporation supervised by the Minister of Press--operates three national television channels and five national radio channels. The Minister of Press also serves as the primary government spokesman.
The Secretary General of Press and Information prepares the Athens News Agency (ANA) Bulletin, which is used, with AP and Reuters, as a primary source of information by the Greek press. The Ministry of Press and Information also issues the Macedonian News Agency (MPE) Bulletin, which is distributed throughout the Balkan region. For international news, CNN is a particular influence in the Greek market; the major TV channels often use it as a source. State and private TV stations also use "Eurovision" and "Visnews" as sources. While few papers and stations have overseas correspondents, those few correspondents abroad can be very influential.
In 1988, a new law provided the legal framework for the establishment of private radio stations and, as of 1989, private TV stations. According to the law, supervision of radio and television is exercised by the National Radio and Television Council. In practice, however, official licensing has been delayed for many years. Because of this, there has been a proliferation of private radio and TV stations, as well as European satellite channels, including Euronews; more than 1,000 radio stations are currently operating in Greece. The Greek Government is now implementing its plans to reallocate TV frequencies and issue licenses, authorized by the 1993 Media Law.
conventional long form: Hellenic Republic
conventional short form: Greece
local long form: Elliniki Dhimokratia
local short form: Ellas or Ellada
former: Kingdom of Greece
Data code: GR
Government type: parliamentary republic; monarchy rejected by referendum 8 December 1974
Administrative divisions: 51 prefectures (nomoi, singular - nomos)and 1 autonomous region*; Ayion Oros* (Mt. Athos), Aitolia kai Akarnania, Akhaia, Argolis, Arkadhia, Arta, Attiki, Dhodhekanisos, Drama, Evritania, Evros, Evvoia, Florina, Fokis, Fthiotis, Grevena, Ilia, Imathia, Ioannina, Irakleion, Kardhitsa, Kastoria, Kavala, Kefallinia, Kerkyra, Khalkidhiki, Khania, Khios, Kikladhes, Kilkis, Korinthia, Kozani, Lakonia, Larisa, Lasithi, Lesvos, Levkas, Magnisia, Messinia, Pella, Pieria, Preveza, Rethimni, Rodhopi, Samos, Serrai, Thesprotia, Thessaloniki, Trikala, Voiotia, Xanthi, Zakinthos
Independence: 1829 (from the Ottoman Empire)
National holiday: Independence Day, 25 March (1821) (proclamation of the war of independence)
Constitution: 11 June 1975; amended March 1986
Legal system: based on codified Roman law; judiciary divided into civil, criminal, and administrative courts
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory
chief of state: President Konstandinos (Kostis) Stephanopoulos (since 10 March 1995)
head of government: Prime Minister Konstandinos Simitis (since 19 January 1996)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: president elected by Parliament for a five-year term; election last held 8 February 2000 (next to be held by NA March 2005); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: Konstandinos STEPHANOPOULOS reelected president; percent of Parliament vote - 90%
unicameral Parliament or Vouli ton Ellinon (300 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: elections last held 9 April 2000 (next to be held by NA April 2004)
election results: percent of vote by party - PASOK 43.8%, ND 42.7%, KKE 5.5%, Coalition of the Left and Progress 3.2%; seats by party - PASOK 158, ND 125, KKE 11, Coalition of the Left and Progress 6
Judicial branch: Supreme Judicial Court, judges appointed for life by the president after consultation with a judicial council; Special Supreme Tribunal, judges appointed for life by the president after consultation with a judicial council
Political parties and leaders: Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) [Nikolaos KONSTANDOPOULOS]; Communist Party of Greece or KKE [Aleka PAPARIGA]; Democratic Social Movement or DIKKI [Dhimitrios TSOVOLAS]; Liberal Party [Stephanos MANOS]; New Democracy or ND (conservative) [Konstandinos KARAMANLIS]; Panhellenic Socialist Movement or PASOK [Konstandinos SIMITIS]; Political Spring [Andonis SAMARAS]; Rainbow Coalition [Pavlos VOSKOPOULOS]
International organization participation: Australia Group, BIS, BSEC, CCC, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EIB, EU, FAO, G- 6, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNOMIG, UPU, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Alexandros Philon
chancery: 2221 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 939-5800
FAX:  (202) 939-5824
consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
consulate(s): Atlanta, Houston, and New Orleans
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns
embassy: 91 Vasilissis Sophias Boulevard, 10160 Athens
mailing address: PSC 108, APO AE 09842-0108
telephone:  (1) 721-2951
FAX:  (1) 645-6282
consulate(s) general: Thessaloniki
Flag description: nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white; there is a blue square in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross; the cross symbolizes Greek Orthodoxy, the established religion of the country