The U.S. government has responded with appropriate reserve to troubling events in Greece--a posture on the part of Washington that can minimize the potential for damage to bilateral relations and Greece's connections to the European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has now driven out of office one of Europe's great statesmen, Constantine Karamanlis, who courageously led the nation back to democracy. Karamanlis had little choice but to resign as president after the prime minister dropped support for his reelection. The maneuver has by no means assured that parliament, when it convenes this weekend to try to agree on a successor, will muster the necessary votes to install Papandreou's choice, Christos Sartzetakis. He is a Supreme Court justice and, at 56, the junior of Karamanlis by 22 years. But the odds would seem to favor election of the new president by the third and final ballot provided for under the constitution, because on that ballot the minimum vote requirement drops from 200 to 180.
Failure to agree on a new president would bring dissolution of parliament and national elections. In any event, elections are required by Oct. 15. Papandreou has clouded his prospects with some of his recent maneuvers, including a proposal to remodel the constitution itself to strengthen his own powers. Nevertheless, there is a strong possibility that he will lead his Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, to a majority in the parliament--but probably a smaller majority than he won five years ago.