Andreas Papandreou, Former Greek Premier, Dies at 77
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Andreas Papandreou, a Harvard-trained economist who became Greece’s first Socialist prime minister and dominated Greek politics in the 1980s, died at home early Sunday. He was 77.
Athens radio stations interrupted their broadcasts early Sunday to announce that Papandreou died at 2.30 a.m. at home from ``heart failure.″
``Greece is in mourning. The founder of our movement, the great patriot, the politician, the leader of our people, Andreas Papandreou, has left us,″ the ruling Socialist Party said in a statement.
Papandreou had not been seen in public since his release from a hospital March 21 after a four-month stay. Illness forced him to resign as premier in January.
No funeral arrangements were immediately available.
Premier Costas Simitis was returning from a European Union summit in Florence, Italy. Simitis and Interior Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos had been expected to compete at a Socialist Party congress beginning Thursday to succeed Papandreou as party leader.
Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement in 1974 and led it to electoral victory in 1981, heading Greece’s first Socialist government until 1989. He rose to power on a combination of anti-American rhetoric, generous social spending and educational reforms.
A fiery Socialist when he first became premier in 1981, Papandreou roused audiences by accusing neighboring rival Turkey of expansionist aims and ensured loyalty by packing the civil service with followers.
His first eight years as premier ended in June 1989, amid allegations of political scandals and a messy divorce from his wife of 38 years.
Despite ill health, having undergone major heart surgery in 1988, Papandreou stayed on as leader of the opposition and brought the Socialists back to power in elections in October 1993.
Papandreou’s second period in power was a far cry from the first. He toned down his anti-American rhetoric and tried to bring Greece’s ailing economy in line with the rest of its European Union partners.
``Andreas Papandreou did much, but he did not leave something concrete behind him. He is probably the only premier in modern Greece history whose name was heard so loudly but who left such a slim legacy,″ journalist Potis Paraskevopoulos wrote in a recent biography.
In the last two years, Papandreou’s frail health forced him to keep public appearances to a minimum and clearly affected his work.
Critics also charged that his 41-year-old wife, Dimitra, who was his chief of staff, was manipulating him to ignite a political career in her own right.
Last year, Papandreou had to endure the publication of nude photographs of Dimitra by a newspaper that wanted him to resign and her to forswear any political ambitions.
In typical fashion, he shrugged off the incident, saying he would support Dimitra in whatever she chose to do.
But a near fatal bout with pneumonia in November and secondary infections kept him in hospital for four months until March, forcing him to resign as premier. He handed over that post to Simitis in January.
Papandreou spent the last months of his life at his villa in the northern Athens suburb of Ekali, in the company of his wife and close friends, undergoing dialysis.
Born on the island of Khios on Feb.5, 1919, Papandreou first became a minister in 1963, in the government of his father George, a centrist premier. This followed his return to Greece after two decades in the United States, where he went after running foul of a right-wing dictatorship in Greece in 1938.
He studied economics at Harvard University and later became chairman of the economics department at the University of California at Berkeley.
Papandreou married Margaret Chant of Elmhurst, Ill., in 1951. They had four children, one girl and three boys _ including Education Minister George Papandreou.
He became an American citizen and joined the U.S. Navy, but he renounced more than 20 years of U.S. citizenship and blasted U.S. policies when he returned to Greece.
Papandreou was angered, among other things, by the U.S. government’s support of the 1967-74 military junta, and for failing to prevent Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus.
When the military seized power in 1967 and suspended democracy, Papandreou was regarded as a threat and jailed. He was freed eight months later with the help of influential friends in Washington, including economist John K. Galbraith and the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey.
His political astuteness and the strong loyalty from Greek voters helped him survive a messy divorce from Margaret in order to wed Dimitra, a much younger airline attendant in 1989. He underwent open-heart surgery in 1988, and in 1992 he was acquitted by a special court of charges of financial corruption during his first administration.
After winning a second four-year term in 1985, Papandreou toned down his rhetoric and dropped threats to pull Greece out of NATO and shut down American bases in Greece.
Critics, however, say he squandered European Community loans on welfare programs and unproductive consumer spending, leaving a lasting legacy of deficits, debt and unrealistic labor demands.
Papandreou lost his parliamentary majority in the June 1989 elections. Later that year, the governing coalition indicted him and ranking Socialist ministers for allegedly authorizing widespread wiretaps and complicity in embezzling $210 million from the Bank of Crete.
Papandreou irritated the West by maintaining friendships with leaders like Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi and Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat. He was accused by the United States of being soft on international terrorism.
Still, he showed his pragmatic streak by renewing a defense agreement with the United States in 1983, permitting the American bases to stay even as he criticized American policies.
In 1994, he met with President Clinton while on his first official visit to Washington. Previous American presidents had avoided inviting him.