Avramopoulos party’s over

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday announced that his Movement of Free Citizens (KEP), a party he founded 15 months ago, was suspending operations. Avramopoulos cited economic difficulties and the «two-party system» among the reasons for turning his party into a think tank, but the move was widely seen as an effort by the two-time mayor to return to the conservative New Democracy party from which he had sprung but which he had not backed in the April 2000 elections. «The excessive economic demands that we face – as it was impossible for us to foresee the recession, which did not allow the average citizen and our friends to support us – and our refusal to depend on powerful economic interests leads us to the decision to suspend the operations of the Movement of Free Citizens,» Avramopoulos said in a televised address. Avramopoulos formed his party on March 6, 2001. The municipal and regional elections of this October would have been its first real test with the electorate. But, despite its strong start in opinion polls even before it was named, the party never received more than 16 percent in polls and recently had slipped below 5 percent. Avramopoulos, meanwhile, who was easily elected mayor of Athens in 1994 and 1998, had committed himself to not running for a third four-year term. ND leader Costas Karamanlis said in an interview earlier this month that if Avramopoulos dissolved his party, he (Karamanlis) would consider accepting him back in the party. Members of the mayor’s administration have already been in touch with ND’s candidate for City Hall, Dora Bakoyianni. Former PM Constantine Mitsotakis, who is Bakoyianni’s father and had been Avramopoulos’s political mentor, said the mayor’s decision was expected and that he belonged in ND’s ranks.