Premier nominates Papoulias

Making opposition PASOK an offer that it found impossible to resist, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday announced that Socialist former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias, a political moderate, would be his party’s nominee for the forthcoming presidential election. In a televised address that was only announced an hour in advance, Karamanlis described the 75-year-old Papoulias – who served under Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s and ’90s – as an experienced politician, «who displayed rare moderation and avoided confrontation throughout his long career.» The question of whom Greece’s two major parties would back to replace the highly popular Costis Stephanopoulos – whose second five-year term in office expires in March – has been the subject of intense speculation over the past few months. Pundits have bandied about a series of names, ranging from outgoing Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos to Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki and Byzantine scholar Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler. However, yesterday Karamanlis argued that it was not his priority to impose a member of his ruling New Democracy party, stressing the need for consensus on the new president – whose position is bereft of executive powers. «There is no ground for political expediency on this matter,» he said. «What is most important is to achieve the strongest possible consensus… That is what respect to our institutions dictates – as well as common sense.» Karamanlis said that the former foreign minister, no longer a PASOK MP, «is at the necessary distance from party politics,» and would be an ideal successor for Stephanopoulos, «who served with great success.» «As chairman of Parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, [Papoulias] cooperated impeccably with all parties,» the prime minister said. «He showed in practice the meaning of consensus and unity.» New Democracy’s choice effectively killed off any fears of PASOK forcing early national elections as the result of any possible stalemate on the choice of a new president, who is elected by a minimum majority of 180 votes of the house’s 300 MPs. PASOK leader George Papandreou hailed the «excellent» nomination, adding that Papoulias has all the necessary qualifications for the job. Stephanopoulos also voiced «sincere joy and great satisfaction» at the nomination.