ND holds center stage

The ruling New Democracy party ended its three-day congress yesterday with its leader’s declaration that the party would represent all Greeks and his demand that party officials set a good example with their behavior, and respect the law. In his opening speech on Friday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed that his party was in the political center and emphasized the virtues of consensus and solidarity. Yesterday, delegates to the congress, held at the Athens suburb of Anthousa, voted for the 150 members of the party’s Central Committee who are not ex officio members. The result of the ballot was expected to be announced late last night. The Central Committee will meet on Thursday to vote for the secretary-general and Political Council. Incumbent Vangelis Meimarakis was unopposed for the post of secretary-general. Karamanlis, who stressed his party’s social sensitivities in the runup to the March 7 elections, in which the conservatives beat the Socialist PASOK party, promised to fulfill all his pre-election promises. These include more hirings by the state sector, tax reform and more benefits for those with lower incomes. «We are proving that the new form of government serves all Greeks, the public interest and the social interest,» Karamanlis said in his closing speech. «The officials who are in positions of political responsibility have a duty to set an example with their behavior and to show absolute respect for the law and every citizen,» he added. «We are working for a truly social state, which cares for all and mostly for those with the greatest needs, such as the disabled, the children in thrall of drugs, the economically worse off, the unemployed and those who are plagued by the century’s diseases,» Karamanlis said. Turning to delegates from abroad, he said, «Tell the world we have set the bar for our efforts high, we are building a better Greece and are ready to organize a wholly successful Olympic Games, having taken all measures necessary for the greatest possible security.» Karamanlis has also been at pains to stress that the party will not try to control the state apparatus. PASOK, which itself had kept a firm grip on the center for many years after moving in from the left, mocked New Democracy’s new centrist leanings. «The belated discovery of the contemporary social center does not make you a centrist party, and the monotonous repetition of pre-electoral generalizations is not an ideological framework nor does it constitute a vision or strategy for the country,» the main opposition party said.