The jockeying for positions ahead of May’s local elections intensified on Tuesday when New Democracy faced the embarrassment of one of its lawmakers, Nikitas Kaklamanis, announcing his candidacy for the mayorship of Athens almost at the same time the party named another of its MPs, Aris Spiliotopoulos, as its preferred candidate for the capital.
Having decided not to back incumbent Giorgos Kaminis, who is running as an independent, New Democracy has been looking for a candidate for the past few weeks. Amid reports that Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni had turned down the challenge, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday afternoon. The former education minister accepted the nomination.
“I am ready to accept this challenge/invitation… for an Athens where residents and visitors feel safe, for an Athens that can drive all of our creative forces,” said Spiliotopoulos in a statement.
The announcement of his candidacy comes after SYRIZA named a relatively unknown 33-year-old economist, Gavriil Sakellaridis, as its candidate. Kaminis, who has run the municipality on a drastically reduced budget, has also said he will stand again. Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris declared his candidacy last month.
Ex-Mayor Kaklamanis threw his hat into the ring after failing to convince Samaras to grant him the party’s nomination. The former health minister had a rocky three years as mayor until 2010 but believes he still has plenty to offer the capital.
“My love for Athens is not opportunist,” he said in a statement. “For me, Athens was, is and will be first.” He added that he would present his independent grouping soon.
Samaras played down the significance of Kaklamanis’s move. “Whoever stands, stands,” he told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday.
However, this does not disguise the fact that even though New Democracy has not announced all its candidates for the May 18 and 25 local elections, several points of friction have emerged. Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzicostas defied his party, which wanted him to challenge Yiannis Boutaris for the mayorship of Thessaloniki, and announced he would try to be re-elected in his current position. The conservatives reacted by nominating Deputy Culture Minister for Sports Yiannis Ioannidis as their candidate in Central Macedonia