Greek Parliament

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The Hellenic Parliament, in Greek known as Voulí ton Ellínon  is the parliament of Greece, located in the Old Royal Palace, overlooking Syntagma Square in Athens. The Parliament is the supreme democratic institution that represents the citizens through an elected body of Members of Parliament (MPs).

It is a unicameral legislature of 300 members, elected for a four-year term. During 1844–1863 and 1927–1935, the parliament was bicameral with an upper house, the Senate, and a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, which retained the name Vouli. Several important Greek statesmen have served as Speakers of the Hellenic Parliament.

 

The original meeting place of the Hellenic Parliament was the house of Athenian magnate and politician Alexandros Kontostavlos, in central Athens, which was used for the first time after King Otto was forced to grant a constitution in 1853. A devastating fire burned down the original building, and plans were made for the construction of what became the seat of the parliament between 1875 and 1932. The new building, now called the Old Parliament House, was completed to designs by French architect François Boulanger. Pending the completion of the Parliament House between 1853 and 1871, the sessions of the parliament took place in a hastily erected building near the Old Parliament House which became known as “the shack”.

The current parliament, a neoclassical three-floor structure designed by Friedrich von Gärtner and completed in 1843, originally served as a palace for the Greek monarchs, hence sometimes still referred to as the “Old Palace” (Greek: Παλαιά Ανάκτορα). After suffering fire damage in 1909, it entered a long period of renovation. The king and royal family moved to what was from 1897 until then the Crown Prince’s Palace, from then on known as the “New Palace”, one block to the east on Herodou Attikou Street, while some royals continued to reside in the “Old Palace” until 1924, when a referendum abolished the monarchy. The building was then used for many different purposes — functioning as a makeshift hospital, a museum, et al. — until November 1929, when government decided that the building would permanently house Parliament. After more extensive renovations, the Senate convened in the “Old Palace” (Greek: Παλαιά Ανάκτορα) on 2 August 1934, followed by the Fifth National Assembly on 1 July 1935. Although the monarchy was restored that same year, the building has housed Parliament ever since.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Greek: Μνημείο του Αγνώστου Στρατιώτη), guarded round the clock by the Evzones of the Presidential Guard, is located in the formal forecourt of the building. Construction of the monument began in 1929 and it was inaugurated on March 25, 1932.

The main Chamber of Parliament, on the ground floor, is amphitheatrical in layout, and is panelled in purple and purple-veined white marble, with inlaid gold ornaments. Seating for the MPs is arranged in five circular sectors. The Speaker’s Chair, the lectern, the ministerial and state functionary benches, and the stenographers’ vault are made of carved wood and are laid out facing the MP seats. A colonnaded balcony surrounds the upper tier of the Chamber and is used as the visitors’ gallery. Part of it served as the Royal Box in the past. A vitrail roof provides natural light during daytime.

An almost identical, but smaller-scaled, Chamber was built in the second floor for use of the Senate. Since there has not been a Senate for several decades, this Chamber has no official function any more, and is used for party caucuses and other parliamentary or party functions on an ad hoc basis.

The building has two main entrances, the west-facing formal entrance, which faces the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Syntagma Square, and the east-facing business entrance, which faces the National Gardens. Improvements are ongoing, some of them significant (such as the addition of an 800-vehicle underground parking structure), to ensure that the building can continue to function effectively. Despite renovations, parliamentary functions have outpaced the capacity of the listed building, and some ancillary services have moved to nearby offices around Syntagma Square.

Stadiou 13
Athina 105 61 GR
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