Referendum and the choice between monarchy and republic in Greece


Drawing on the 1974 Greek parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum which abolished the monarchy, the paper employs a spatial decision model to examine the strategic use of a parliamentary election and a non mandatory referendum by an agenda setter. The parliamentary election bundles two issues, the right to form a government and the right to choose the form of state. This implies that the election campaign efforts to attract votes are different from the campaign efforts to win an election for government and a separate referendum for the form of state. The choice of the agenda setter turns out to depend on his costs of campaign efforts in the different contests relative to those of the opposition, his benefits to be gained from winning the different contests, his comparative electoral appeal and the probability that the referendum secures his favourite outcome.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    For the advantages that monarchy could confer to a modern democracy see, for example, Lijphart (1999) and Bogdanor (1996).

  2. 2.

    See Congleton (2007) for a formal political economy analysis of the shift of power from the kings to parliaments that took place in the nineteenth century.

  3. 3.

    It is worth noting that in the Greek language there are not separate words for “democracy”, the system of government where political decisions are made by the people through a competitive electoral process, and “republic”, the form of state where the head of state is not hereditary. The Greek translation of “republic”, a Latin word, is “democracy”—δημοκρατία.

  4. 4.

    See, for example, Clogg (1986).

  5. 5.

    Greece with a population of 5 million and a weak economy had to cope with the influx of 1.3 million refugees from Asia Minor as a result of her defeat.

  6. 6.

    Van Der Kiste (1994) alleges that the referendum was “controlled by the police” but otherwise gives no details. On the other hand, Clogg (1986) notes that territories added after the victorious Balkan Wars against the Ottomans (1912–1913) and areas settled by large numbers of refugees from Asia Minor returned overwhelming republican majorities.

  7. 7.

    It was confronted by chronic economic hardship and political instability including unstable parliamentary governments intercepted by coups and cycles of reprisals and purges of royalists and anti-royalists in the civil service and the military.

  8. 8.

    See Clogg (1986), or Gallant (2001).

  9. 9.

    An additional problem related to the restricted if not distorted choice offered by the referendum, since the ballot asked three questions, namely; (a) approval of the abolition of the monarchy; (b) approval of the constitution proposed by the military government; and (c) acceptance of the strongman of the military government, G. Papadopoulos, as president of the Republic, but allowed voters only a single answer “yes” or “no” to all three questions.

  10. 10.

    As parliament would convene after the referendum Karamanlis then had “a free hand in arranging the details of the referendum and, at the same time, saved him from any embarrassment which the royalists in his party might have caused if Parliament had been in session.” Markesinis (1974, p. 263).

  11. 11.

    There were some complaints from the anti-royalist camp for not using the word “Republic”; in turn the royalist voiced concern that the word “Crowned” was printed in dull brown ink in the ballot papers while “Uncrowned” was printed in lighter green ink.

  12. 12.

    “Mr. Karamanlis prevented his own MPs from taking part in the referendum dispute. By keeping the government party outside the dispute Mr. Karamanlis intended to strengthen the impartiality of the result, though his opponents maintain that he merely undermined the royalist cause—an accusation which appears to be supported by the fact that to this day Mr. Karamanlis [unlike Venizelos (1924)] has avoided expressing even his personal views on this important issue. However, it is also true to say that the royalists in his party towed the party line with no complaints which surely indicates that either they did not believe in the monarchy very strongly or, that they considered the battle already lost. On the other hand, Mr. Karamanlis would not have obtained the majority he did at the general elections had the royalists in his party known that he was against the monarchy.” Markesinis (1974, p. 269), emphasis in the original.

  13. 13.

    Despite the level playing field, Markesinis (1974) considers the referendum as a missed opportunity for a serious public debate: “On the whole the campaign, whether for or against the monarchy, was neither creative or inspired. Both sides chose to appeal to the emotions rather than to the reason of the electorate and this was most evident in the two highly emotional appeals addressed by the ex-King to the people.” (p. 270).

  14. 14.

    For an extensive discussion, see Mueller (1996), Chap. 21, and Mueller (1999).

  15. 15.

    Indeed, C. Karamanlis was elected President in 1980. He resigned in 1985 protesting against the constitutional revisions proposed by the then socialist government of A. Papandreou to curtail the powers of the president, subsequently ratified in 1986. He served for a second and final term in 1990–1995.

  16. 16.

    See Nurmi (1997) for an analysis of this and other related paradoxes of majority voting.

  17. 17.

    The contradiction between arguments (4) and (5) is more apparent than real as they refer to different circumstances.

  18. 18.

    The above list is not exhaustive; an additional concern is how campaign contributions may affect policy outcomes in representative democracy in comparison to initiatives, see Lupia and Matsusaka (2004) and Matsusaka (2004) for details.

  19. 19.

    However, this argument does not automatically justify the referendum as the best way to amend a constitution. For example, noting that choosing constitutional arrangements requires compromises on a multitude of issues where information and specialised expertise may be necessary, Mueller (1999) suggests that the election of a constitutional convention may be a useful alternative to amend a constitution.

  20. 20.

    To be precise there is an exception here, namely, in 1968 the then military regime held a referendum to ratify its proposed authoritarian constitution. The latter was approved in a rigged vote but it was never implemented.

  21. 21.

    Interestingly, in an unprecedented move the government at the time asked for 3/5 majority of the parliamentary vote, rather than the norm of simple majority, to ratify the Treaty. As the ruling party had a smaller majority than that, ratification relied on the support of smaller centrist parties (allowing the government to claim cross-party backing for its policy) while the socialist official opposition abstained from the vote.

  22. 22.

    They carefully work out the conditions for equilibrium in this multi-dimension space where, as we know, the existence of an equilibrium outcome is the exception rather than the rule.

  23. 23.

    Seen from a different angle, using different voting mechanisms for different issues can be thought as an extension of the arrangement of consequential voting, where voting takes place on one issue at a time, which yields a stable voting equilibrium and offers a possible escape from the impasse of cycling in multi-dimension voting (see e.g. Mueller 2003).

  24. 24.

    As already indicated, the latter paper examines the choice of an incumbent government to call either a non-required referendum or a parliamentary vote to ratify one legislative bill. The decision of the incumbent relates to a single dimension choice between the proposed bill and the status quo (the opposition has no agenda setting power) and the median voter theorem applies. In the present analysis, the incumbent decides between calling an election only or an election and a referendum to ratify two different issues of public policy, the constitutional arrangement and the post-constitutional policy, where all players contesting the elections make policy proposals.

  25. 25.

    A’s disutility from implementing his ideological objectives is zero, that is, \( \lambda_{\text{A}} P[\theta_{\text{A}} (G_{\text{A}} - G_{\text{A}} )^{2} + (1 - \theta_{\text{A}} )(F_{\text{A}} - F_{\text{A}} )^{2} ] = 0. \)

  26. 26.

    If the incumbent chooses to call an election for G and FS, a Nash equilibrium of the election sub-game \( \left( {C_{\text{A}}^{*} ,C_{\text{B}}^{*} } \right) \) requires that for all C A , V A \( \left( {C_{\text{A}}^{*} ,C_{\text{B}}^{*} } \right) \) ≥ V A \( \left( {C_{\text{A}} ,C_{\text{B}}^{*} } \right) \) and for all C B , V A \( \left( {C_{\text{A}}^{*} ,C_{\text{B}}^{*} } \right) \) ≥ V A \( \left( {C_{\text{A}}^{*} ,C_{\text{B}} } \right). \)

  27. 27.
    $$ \Updelta_{2} = \frac{{A_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} P^{2} Q^{2} }}{{\alpha^{2} }}\left[ {\frac{{W_{\text{A}} }}{{W_{\text{B}} }}\frac{{B_{{ 1 {\text{E}}}} }}{{A_{{ 1 {\text{E}}}} }} + \alpha + \left( {\frac{{T_{\text{A}} }}{{T_{\text{B}} }}\frac{{B_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} }}{{A_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} }} + \alpha } \right)\sqrt {\frac{{A_{{ 1 {\text{E}}}} }}{{A_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} }}} } \right]\left[ {\frac{{W_{\text{A}} }}{{W_{\text{B}} }}\frac{{B_{{ 1 {\text{E}}}} }}{{A_{{ 1 {\text{E}}}} }} + \alpha - \left( {\frac{{T_{\text{A}} }}{{T_{\text{B}} }}\frac{{B_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} }}{{A_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} }} + \alpha } \right)\sqrt {\frac{{A_{{ 1 {\text{E}}}} }}{{A_{{ 1 {\text{R}}}} }}} } \right]. $$
  28. 28.

    Note that the absence of specific right-wing monarchist and non-monarchists parties was indicative of the barriers to entry in the political market.


  1. Besley, T., & Coate, S. (2008). Issue unbundling via citizens’ initiatives. Retrieved 12 Nov 2008 from

  2. Bogdanor, V. (1994). Western Europe. In D. Butler & R. Austin (Eds.), Referendums around the world. The growing use of direct democracy (pp. 24–97). Washington: American Enterprise Institute Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bogdanor, V. (1996). The monarchy and the constitution parliamentary. Affairs, 36, 407–422.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Butler, D., & Ranney, A. (1978). Referendums. Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Clogg, R. (1986). A short history of modern Greece (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Congleton, R. (2007). From royal to parliamentary rule without revolution: The economics of constitutional exchange within divided governments. European Journal of Political Economy, 23, 261–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Feld, L. P., & Kirchgässner, G. (2000). Direct democracy, political culture and the outcome of economic policy: A report on the Swiss experience. European Journal of Political Economy, 16, 287– 306.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Frey, B., Marcel, K., & Stutzer, A. (2001). Outcome, process and power in direct democracy. New econometric results. Public Choice, 107, 271–293.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Gallant, T. W. (2001). Modern Greece. London: Hodder Arnold.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hug, S. (2004). Occurrence and policy consequences of referendums. A theoretical model and empirical evidence. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 16, 321–356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Hug, S., & Sciarini, P. (2000). Referendums on European integration. Do institutions matter in the voter’s decision? Comparative Political Studies, 33, 3–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hug, S., & Tsebelis, G. (2002). Veto players and referendums around the world. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 14, 465–515.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Kessler, A. S. (2005). Representative versus direct democracy: The role of informational asymmetries. Public Choice, 122, 9–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. LeDuc, L. (2002). Referendums and initiatives: The politics of direct democracy. In L. LeDuc, N. Richard, & P. Norris (Eds.), Comparing democracies, new challenges in the study of elections and voting (Vol. 2, pp. 70–87). London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Lijphart, A. (1999). Patterns of democracy. Government forms and performance in thirty-six countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Lupia, A. (1994). Shortcuts versus encyclopedias: Information and voting behaviour in California insurance refor elections. American Political Science Review, 88, 63–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Lupia, A., & Matsusaka, J. G. (2004). Direct democracy: New approaches to old questions. Annual Review of Political Science, 7, 463–482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lupia, A., & McCubbins, M. D. (1998). The democratic dilemma Can citizens learn what they need to know? New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Markesinis, B. (1974). Recent political and constitutional developments in Greece. Parliamentary Affairs, 28, 261–277.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Matsusaka, J. G. (2004). For the many or the few: The initiative, public policy, and American democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Matsusaka, J. G. (2005a). The eclipse of legislatures: Direct democracy in the 21st century. Public Choice, 124, 157–177.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Matsusaka, J. G. (2005b). Direct democracy works. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19, 185–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Matsusaka, J. (2008). Direct democracy and the executive branch. In S. Bowler & A. Glazer (Eds.), Direct democracy’s impact on American political institutions (pp. 69–92). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Matsusaka, J. G., & McCartny, N. M. (2001). Political resource allocation: Benefits and costs of voters initiatives. Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 17, 413–448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Mueller, D. C. (1996). Constitutional democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Mueller, D. C. (1999). On amending constitutions. Constitutional Political Economy, 10, 385–396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Mueller, D. C. (2003). Public choice III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Mueller, D. C. (2005). Constitutional political economy in the European Union. Public Choice, 124, 57–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Nurmi, H. (1997). Compound majority paradoxes and proportional representation. European Journal of Political Economy, 13, 443–454.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Rubin, P. H., Curran, C., & Curran, J. F. (2001). Litigation versus legislation: Forum shopping by rent-seekers. Public Choice, 107, 295–310.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Setälä, M. (2006). On the problems of responsibility and accountability in referendums. European Journal of Political Research, 45, 699–721.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Smith, D. A., & Tolbert, C. J. (2004). Educated by initiative. The effects of direct democracy on citizens and political organizations in the American States. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Tridimas, G. (2007). Ratification through referendum or parliamentary vote: When to call a non required referendum? European Journal of Political Economy, 23, 674–692.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Tsebelis, G. (2002). Veto players: How political institutions work. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Tullock, G. (1980). Efficient rent seeking. In B. James, R. Tollison, & G. Tullock (Eds.), Towards a theory of the rent seeking society (pp. 97–112). College Station, Texas: A&M University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Van Der Kiste, J. (1994). Kings of the Hellenes. The Greek Kings 18631974. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing.

Download references


I wish to thank two anonymous referees for helpful advice, comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the paper. Of course, responsibility for any remaining errors or omissions is mine alone.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to George Tridimas.



Derivation of the comparative static properties when η A = η B = η, λ A = λ B = λ and θ A = θ B = θ—inequalities (12) and (13).

$$ \begin{gathered} \Updelta = A_{{{\text{2E}}}} - A_{{{\text{2R}}}} + A_{{{\text{1R}}}} Q^{2} -A_{{{\text{1E}}}} P^{2} ,\quad {\text{where}} \hfill \\ A_{{{\text{1E}}}} = B_{{{\text{1E}}}} = (1- \lambda )\eta + \lambda [\theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1- \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ];\quad A_{{{\text{1R}}}} = B_{{{\text{1R}}}} = (1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ; \hfill \\ A_{{{\text{2E}}}} = \lambda [\theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1- \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ];\quad A_{{{\text{2R}}}} = \lambda [\theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1- \Uppi )(1- \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]; \hfill \\ P = \alpha W_{{\text{B}}} \div (\alpha W_{{\text{B}}} + W_{{\text{A}}} )\,{\text{and}}\,Q = \alpha T_{{\text{B}}} \div (\alpha T_{{\text{B}}} + T_{{\text{A}}} ) \hfill \\ \Updelta = \lambda (1 - \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} \Uppi + [(1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\left( {\frac{{\alpha T_{{\text{B}}} }}{{\alpha T_{{\text{B}}} + T_{{\text{A}}} }}} \right)^{2} - [(1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + \left( {1 - \theta } \right)(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\left( {\frac{{\alpha W_{{\text{B}}} }}{{\alpha W_{{\text{B}}} + W_{{\text{A}}} }}} \right)^{2} \Rightarrow \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{{\text{d}}\Updelta }}{{{\text{d}}\Uppi }} = \lambda (1 - \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} > 0 \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{d(G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} }} = \lambda \theta Q^{2} > 0 \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{dW_{{\text{A}}} }} = 2\alpha W_{{\text{B}}} \{ (1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda [\theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1 - \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\} \quad P > 0 \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{dW_{{\text{B}}} }} = - 2\alpha W_{{\text{A}}} \{ (1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda [\theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1 - \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\} \quad P > 0 \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{dT_{{\text{A}}} }} = - 2\alpha T_{{\text{B}}} [(1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\quad Q > 0 \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{dT_{{\text{B}}} }} = 2\alpha T_{{\text{A}}} [(1 - \lambda )\eta + \lambda \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\quad Q > 0 \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{d\eta }} = (1 - \lambda )(Q^{2} - P^{2} ) > ( < )\,0\quad {\text{as}}\;Q > ( < )\,P \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{d\lambda }} = (1 - \theta )\Uppi (F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + [ - \eta + \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]Q^{2} - [ - \eta + \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1 - \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\,P^{2} = ? \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{d\theta }} = - \Uppi (F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + \lambda (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} \,Q^{2} - \{ \lambda [(G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} - (F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\} P^{2} = ? \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{d\alpha }} = 2\{ \eta (1 - \lambda ) + \lambda \theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} \} \,QT_{{\text{A}}} T_{{\text{B}}} (\alpha W_{{\text{B}}} + W_{{\text{A}}} )^2 - 2\{ \eta (1 - \lambda ) + \lambda [\theta (G_{{\text{A}}} - G_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} + (1 - \theta )(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} ]\} \,PW_{{\text{A}}} W_{{\text{B}}} \,(\alpha T_{{\text{B}}} + T_{{\text{A}}} )^2 = ? \hfill \\ {\text{Sign}}\frac{{d\Updelta }}{{d(F_{{\text{A}}} - F_{{\text{B}}} )^{2} }} = \lambda (1 - \theta )(\Uppi - P^{2} ) = ? \hfill \\ \end{gathered} $$

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tridimas, G. Referendum and the choice between monarchy and republic in Greece. Const Polit Econ 21, 119–144 (2010).

Download citation


  • Greece
  • Monarchy versus republic
  • Non-required referendum
  • Parliamentary elections
  • Campaign effort
  • Constitutional revision

JEL Classification

  • D7
  • N4