The ruling socialists yesterday nominated a former European Union commissioner and low-key party dissident, Christos Papoutsis, as their candidate for the mayoralty of Athens during this autumn’s municipal elections. The decision was announced by PASOK General Secretary Costas Laliotis in a surprise move that forestalls main opposition party New Democracy, which has yet to announce its own candidate for Athens, a long-standing ND stronghold. Laliotis hinted that PASOK would approach left-wing opposition parties in search of support for Papoutsis, a 49-year-old economist who served as tourism and energy commissioner from 1995-99, and as merchant marine minister from 1999 to last October’s reshuffle. «Our real and symbolical battle for the Athens of 2004, can and must be fought in a spirit of broad political and social consensus, on terms of cooperation, victory and hope,» Laliotis told journalists. Papoutsis has openly voiced a desire to run for mayor of Athens during October’s elections. The incumbent, Dimitris Avramopoulos – who was elected for two consecutive sessions on the ND ticket – has said he will not stand again. Despite the fact that Papoutsis subscribes to a dissident faction within PASOK that admires party founder Andreas Papandreou’s brand of Eighties socialism, socialist officials think there is a good chance of the entire party rallying behind him. After reportedly toying with the idea of backing a TV journalist, New Democracy is now understood to favor shadow Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister Dora Bakoyianni – the daughter of former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis – as mayor of Athens, in what will be PASOK’s first electoral test after its re-election in April 2000. But the opposition party has made no official announcement.