Dimitris Sioufas picks up baton from Anna Psarouda-Benaki

Following the tension triggered by the leadership struggle within socialist PASOK, the changeover of speakers in Parliament served to calm the atmosphere. It was yet another victory for the conservative New Democracy party, as 158 out of 299 deputies voting in a secret ballot chose Dimitris Sioufas, a dynamic ND official who has represented Karditsa for 25 years and held key ministerial posts. He succeeded the highly regarded Anna Psarouda-Benaki, the first female speaker in the Greek Parliament who, Sioufas said, «had honored and adorned the office, making it an even greater honor and responsibility to succeed her.» While the votes were being counted, Sioufas sat next to the outgoing speaker in the front row with Miltiades Evert. When the result was announced, Benaki was the first to offer her congratulations, and the two embraced, to loud applause. After accepting congratulations from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and greeting Giorgos Sourlas, who conducted the vote, Sioufas sat briefly before making his first speech as speaker. A capable orator, dedicated to Parliament, Sioufas assured the assembly that he would be a speaker «for all sides, not just for New Democracy» which nominated him. «Allow me to express my respect for those colleagues who voted differently, as is their right, and to say a big thank you to the people of Karditsa who have elected me repeatedly,» he said. He greeted new deputies and those who had returned after some years’ absence, then paid his respects to the founder of his party Constantine Karamanlis, other prime ministers, party leaders and to his predecessor. When Sioufas heard the outcome of the vote, he nodded to the balcony where his wife Katy, daughter Stefania, other family members and friends from Karditsa were seated. Later on Helbi was close enough to see him embrace his wife and whisper, «I owe it all to you.» It was a fine day in the Greek Parliament.