Obituary:Yannis Alevras

Click to follow
The Independent Online
For most conservative Greeks, Yannis Alevras's last decade in politics came to personify the acceptable face of socialism.

In the heydays following the Panhellenic Socialist Party's (Pasok) first electoral victory in 1981, Alevras lent an air of gravity and considerable political acumen to the clique of clumsy ideologues chosen by Andreas Papandreou to guide the country toward its social and economic renaissance. As a close confidant and influential adviser to the prime minister, Alevras undoubtedly bore a responsibility for the populist failures of the Pasok governments of 1981 and 1985 and particularly for the uncompromising political demands that were made by the trade unions and often conceded by the government.

Alevras raised himself from clerk with the Bank of Greece to Speaker of Parliament on the virtues of his unblemished democratic record and his organising skills in the trade union movement. Active in local bank syndicates from 1935 onwards, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Federation of Bank Employees (OTOE) of which he was consistently elected head from 1955 to 1963. He remained in the forefront of social reform for workers' rights and instigated the establishment of the Federation of Unions in 1961 with the participation of 115 different professional syndicates.

His debut in politics was greatly strengthened by this broad-based political clientele of bank employees and civil servants (all Greek banks were at the time either state-owned or state-controlled). He was welcomed into George Papandreou's Centre Union party and elected to Parliament for the first time in the 1963 national elections. Re-elected the following year, he supported the prime minister in his populist fight against the monarchy.

On 21 April 1967 the junta instigated its bloodless putsch and Alevras was immediately arrested and confined to the tiny Cycladic island of Folegandros. Later moved to other camps for political detainees, he remained a prime target for the military police; he was imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement from 1970 to 1972 on suspicion of plotting against the colonels. Throughout these years of suppression he maintained close contact with Andreas Papandreou and his reactionary organisation PAK, the precursor to Pasok. His designation as PAK's senior representative and spokesman in Greece during the junta years was never challenged.

Following the return to democratic rule, with Constantine Karamanlis as prime minister, Alevras worked closely with Papandreou to create Pasok, of which he became the Parliamentary Representative after the elections of December 1977. The party raised its initial 14 per cent of the national vote in 1974 to a clear majority within seven years and Alevras was elected Speaker of the House in 1981, a post to which he brought great conciliatory skill and a welcome authority. Re-elected Speaker by the 1985 Parliament, he served another full term with a brief hiatus as stand-in President of the Republic (in March 1985), filling the space between Karamanlis's resignation as president and the election of Christos Sartzetakis.

Proposed in 1990 by Papandreou for President of the Republic, Alevras lost on the last round to Karamanlis but retained great influence both as a senior parliamentarian and as a politician. He was last appointed Parliamentary State Deputy for Pasok after the elections of October 1993.

Michael Moschos

Yannis Alevras, politician: born Messini, Peloponnese 1912; married Christina Papathanasiou; died Athens 6 April 1995.