NEWS

Mitsotakis takes his bow

Constantine Mitsotakis, a former prime minister and a leading player in Greek politics of the past half century, announced yesterday that he would not seek to be re-elected to Parliament in the March 7 ballot. So ends a parliamentary career that began with Mitsotakis’s election in 1946, when, at 28, he was the youngest deputy of the first postwar Parliament. Apart from the military dictatorship of 1967-74, when he escaped abroad, he was elected repeatedly, for a total of 18 terms. Mitsotakis, 86, is the nephew of Eleftherios Venizelos, the great Greek statesman of the first half of the 20th century. He is the father of Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis. His son, Kyriakos, is up for election for the first time on March 7. His voice trembling with emotion but still clear and precise, New Democracy’s honorary chairman said that he had thought hard before making his decision, which comes during a debate on what ND needs to do to renew itself ahead of the elections, with several party «barons» unwilling to step aside. «I will set the example,» Mitsotakis said. «After long and mature thought I decided not to be a candidate in the next elections… I believe deeply in the need for renewal. And I am convinced that my departure from Parliament will help our great political bloc, so that it may move with even greater determination in this direction,» he said. The conservative party’s Central Committee rose in a long and loud standing ovation for the man who had led New Democracy to electoral victories in 1989 and 1990, when he became prime minister, until the party lost to PASOK in 1993 and he resigned as leader. «Society, as a whole, seeks renewal,» Mitsotakis said. «But renewal is not confined to changes of faces. It depends on the new ideas that one brings to politics, and to the new policies that one dares promote. Renewal demands courage and daring,» he said. «The daily routine of Parliament is weighing down on me now and, naturally, I do not want to allow myself to remain a member of Parliament with a reduced presence in it.» The conservative patriarch praised New Democracy, which he joined in 1977, three years after it was formed by Constantine Karamanlis, the late prime minister, president and uncle of current leader Costas Karamanlis. Party leader Karamanlis, who has sometimes chafed at Mitsotakis’s power within the party, embraced him. «This is not an easy decision for a leader whose life has been bound up with his contribution to the country and Democracy. Mr Chairman, you leave behind a strong legacy and you can, for many years, like a teenager, keep waging battle. I assure you that all of us will depend on your experienced opinion, your counsel and your active involvement,» Karamanlis said. When Mitsotakis was first elected to Parliament on March 31, 1946, he was already well known as a leading member of the anti-Nazi resistance who had twice been sentenced to death by the Germans. The most controversial point in his career was his decision to cross the floor in July 1965, when his defection helped bring down the centrist government of Giorgios Papandreou, provoking decades of feuding with his son, Andreas Papandreou, father of the current contender for prime minister, George Papandreou.