NEWS

Campaign ends with ND, PASOK sure of victory

Campaigning for tomorrow’s national elections ended at midnight last night, shortly after PASOK leader George Papandreou told a mass rally in central Athens that the Socialists would manage to remain in power. The conservative New Democracy party, however, was also confident of victory after more than a decade in opposition as opinion polls for the past few years have shown it enjoying a clear lead over PASOK. This was still steady at about 3 percent when the last polls were published before a ban came into effect in the last two weeks of the campaign. Yesterday, the two main parties were basing their optimism on unpublished polls and on the behavior of the public. «In a few hours, the Greeks, with their decision, will bring about the great political change that the country needs,» ND spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos said. New Democracy was encouraged by the fact that an estimated 200,000 people attended leader Costas Karamanlis’s rally on Thursday night. Twice that number attended Papandreou’s, PASOK officials told the Athens News Agency last night. «The people have spoken tonight and they vote for progress and democracy,» Papandreou said as he rose to the microphone on the stage above the intersection of Alexandras Avenue and Patission Street, where ND and the Communist Party had also held their rallies. Papandreou, who was elected leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement last month after Prime Minister Costas Simitis stepped aside in his favor, is competing with Karamanlis as to who will be prime minister. The electoral system is weighted to give the winning party a clear majority in the 300-seat Parliament. Papandreou, 51, and Karamanlis, 47, are the scions of prominent political families and their duel is the latest chapter in a long rivalry. Papandreou’s grandfather and namesake was a centrist who beat Karamanlis’s uncle and namesake in elections in 1963. Papandreou’s father, Andreas, founded PASOK in 1974 and ran against the elder Constantine Karamanlis’s New Democracy, sweeping to power in 1981. PASOK has ruled almost uninterruptedly since then, apart from a break from 1990-93, which was ND’s last taste of power. The younger Karamanlis was elected leader in March 1997 and lost a close election to Simitis in 2000. Simitis, who succeeded Andreas Papandreou as prime minister and PASOK’s second leader in 1996, resigned in favor of the younger Papandreou when polls showed PASOK heading for defeat. Papandreou last night referred to his father, to Simitis and to many deceased PASOK cadres in an effort to raise the passions of the crowd before he launched into a speech aimed at stressing his desire to renew the party. Among the commitments he made yesterday, Papandreou promised to achieve favorable solutions to the Cyprus issue and the delineation of the Aegean’s continental shelf; to strengthen local authorities through direct election of a regional council; reduce unemployment and spend more on education; improve living standards; beat bureaucracy; make «participatory democracy» the center of government; lead «a total and daily battle against corruption.»