Greece: A Case of Fragmented Centralism and ‘Behind the Scenes’ Localism

Nikos Hlepas and Panagiotis Getimis

in The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199562978
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Greece: A Case of Fragmented Centralism and ‘Behind the Scenes’ Localism

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  • Politics
  • Regional Political Studies
  • Comparative Politics



Greece, while described as the ‘cradle of Western democracy’, remains to be one of the most centralist state in Europe. This central governance is mirrored in Greece's percentage of local expenditure in GDP which remains the lowest in Europe and in the restricted functions of local government. Centralism remains to be perceived as necessary in order to sustain national unity and distributive capacities of the state in a country that has had to cope with political instability, regional divergence, and weak economic development. This article discusses Greece's dominant model of ‘pendulum democracy’. Within the context of centralism and the ‘pendulum democracy’, civil society in Greece remains weak and fragmented. Adding to these is the clientelistic political culture of Greece. All of these resulted in the confusion of political responsibility, frustration of accountability, inefficiency, and disintegration of the public space. While reform efforts have been directed to reduce centralism and the Westminster model of pendulum democracy, these however have little effect on the political system of Greece. The persistent fragmentation and the lack of cohesion of sectoral policies continually frustrate reform processes.

Keywords: Greece; centralist state; centralism; pendulum democracy; clientelistic political culture; fragmentation

Article.  8843 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Regional Political Studies ; Comparative Politics

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