Conservatives win power in landslide

Greeks voted overwhelmingly for change yesterday, sweeping into power the conservative New Democracy party and removing the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which had ruled since 1993. Voters appeared to have grown tired of PASOK, which has governed for all but three years since 1981 and which, despite a change of leader a month ago, did not appear to persuade them that it could bring about political change, clamp down on corruption and break the close embrace of the state machinery, ruling party and business interests. The new government will also have to help solve the Cyprus issue at a time of delicate negotiations and push ahead with preparations for the Olympic Games. Costas Karamanlis will meet with President Costis Stephanopoulos this morning to be given the mandate to govern. Karamanlis is expected to announce his Cabinet tomorrow, with the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is expected in Athens on Saturday. Results from 39.04 percent of the vote had New Democracy beating PASOK by 47.01 percent to 40.33 percent. The Communist Party was third with 5.33 percent and the Synaspismos Left Coalition was fighting to clear the 3 percent threshold for entry into Parliament. With these figures, it appeared that New Democracy would have 169 seats in Parliament, followed by PASOK with 120 and the Communists with 11. The electoral system is weighted to give the winning party a clear majority in Parliament while the second is burdened by losing seats to smaller ones. In 2000, PASOK beat ND by 1.1 percent. «Today, with your vote, you confirmed your clear demand for political change,» Karamanlis said in a nationally televised statement at Zappeion Mansion. «Today you handed out a clear mandate for all of us to move ahead, to meet the desires of every Greek,» he said. «Today’s decision is a great honor for us and a great responsibility. I am involved in politics so as to serve.» Karamanlis, 47, will be in government for the first time. His party was founded by his uncle and namesake in 1974, when democracy was restored after a seven-year military dictatorship. PASOK’s leader, George Papandreou, is the son and grandson of prime ministers (Andreas and George, respectively) and this was the sixth electoral battle in which a Papandreou dueled with a Karamanlis. He promised a policy that will «put the citizen at the center of politics.» «Today there are no winners or losers. The Greeks have entrusted us with their dreams and hopes. Together we are starting a new page.»

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