Archbishop race on

All four candidates vying to succeed the late Archbishop Christodoulos yesterday made last-ditch efforts to secure votes ahead of today’s elections. The Holy Synod convenes at 9 a.m. today to conduct the 20th election of an archbishop to head the Greek Orthodox Church. A total of 75 bishops are to participate in the polls, with three abstaining due to illness. The bishop of Thebes, Ieronymos, and the bishop of Sparta, Efstathios, are the strongest candidates of the four clerics who have said they will run. The two other hopefuls are Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki and Bishop Ignatios of Dimitrias. Until late last night, the camps of all four candidates reportedly sought to convince undecided bishops to back them in the polls. Despite the clear predominance of bishops Ieronymos and Efstathios, Church sources told Kathimerini that it was anyone’s game. «No one can predict what will happen within the confines of the cathedral – in an archbishopric election, the best prediction is the result,» an experienced cleric said. The bishops will cast their ballots in a process overseen by a three-cleric committee along with the Education and Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stylianidis. A candidate must garner an overall majority – 38 of the 75 votes – to be elected. If this does not happen, the candidate with the smallest number of votes will be eliminated and a second round of voting will be held. Again the 38-vote mark must be reached. If the second round is inconclusive, a third round will be held, as was the case with Christodoulos in 1998. It is believed that the first poll today will not be conclusive, leading to a second round. In that event, many supporters of Anthimos will shift their allegiance to Ieronymos, sources said yesterday. As speculation mounted yesterday about the outcome of today’s polls, some bishops were said to be angered by the interventions of certain politicians who allegedly expressed support for particular bishops. There were also allegations of attempts by businesses and publishing firms to intimidate some bishops into voting a certain way.