Costas Karamanlis, leader of the conservative New Democracy party, presented Simitis’s announcement that he was stepping down as PASOK’s leader as a publicity stunt and as an admission that he would lose elections. ND has been leading PASOK by a comfortable 8 percent in opinion polls for over a year. The Socialists’ leadership change, however, could reshuffle the deck before elections in March. «A cycle has just been completed. The last PR game has been played out. A performance devoid of real content,» Karamanlis said minutes after Simitis’s announcement. «Today’s development is the direct result of the people’s dissatisfaction, their despair, the dead ends produced in society by the governing party’s policies.» He presented the premier as fleeing before battle. «By announcing his departure, Simitis himself is admitting the failure of PASOK’s policies. He has decided not to stand before the Greek people and ask them to judge his policies,» Karamanlis said. Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga, commenting on PASOK officials’ description of the day as «historic,» said, «I don’t know if these are historic moments, but we believe that we are living through moments of pre-electoral fraud affecting the popular strata, all those who are suffering.» PASOK General Secretary Michalis Chrysochoidis said Simitis’s resignation was «the first political act of the second cycle after the restoration of democracy» in 1974.