Greek legislative election, 1920

Parliamentary elections were held in Greece on 1 November 1920.[1] They were possibly the most crucial elections in the modern history of Greece, influencing not only the few years afterwards, including the country's defeat by Kemal Atatürk's reformed Turkish army in 1922, but setting the stage for Greece's political landscape for most of the rest of the 20th century. It had been nearly five years since the last election, a period during which all democratic procedures were suspended due to the National Schism, when Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos announced that the elections would take place on 25 October. However, after the unexpected death of King Alexander, who had assumed the throne after the exile of his father, King Constantine I, the elections were postponed until 1 November.

The result was a victory for the United Opposition, which won 251 of the 369 seats.

Results

Party Votes % Seats
United Opposition368,67849.36260
Liberal Party375,80350.31110
Independents2,4650.330
Total746,946100370
Source: Greek Institute of Constitutional History

Aftermath

Eleftherios Venizelos regarded a victory for his Liberal Party as all but certain, because of his diplomatic and military successes against the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, the final electoral results represented nothing short of a disaster for Venizelos. Not only did the United Opposition achieve an absolute majority of seats in Parliament, but Venizelos himself failed to win a seat. Humiliated and disappointed by the outcome of the election, Venizelos left the country for France, also leaving his Liberal Party without a logical successor or any strong leadership.

The reasons of the unexpected defeat of the Liberals included:

  • The electoral system: The Liberal Party took almost 7,000 more votes (50, 23%, 375.803 votes) than the Opposition, but it received just 118 seats, while the Opposition received 251 seats
  • The conservative and right-wing opposition managed to unite under a highly esteemed leader, Dimitrios Gounaris
  • The United Opposition managed to turn the elections into a referendum on the exiled King Constantine I, who was still wildly popular especially in Old Greece (the pre-Balkan Wars kingdom).
  • The Greek people were tired after almost a decade of wars and division, and was susceptible to the United Opposition promise to secure peace with the Turks and bring the troops home
  • The vote of the tens of thousands of Muslim and Jewish citizens in Greek Macedonia was also overwhelmingly cast in favour of the United Opposition, as it had been in the 1915 elections.

References

  1. Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p829 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
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