Clear-out begins at ruling ND

One of the architects of New Democracy’s rise to power, former government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, yesterday made Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s job slightly easier after announcing that he would not stand as a parliamentary candidate in the next general elections, amid speculation that the premier would be wiping the party’s candidate lists of any MPs who had been linked in the past to corruption scandals. In a letter to Karamanlis, Roussopoulos revealed that, contrary to his previous indications, he would not be pressing for inclusion on ND’s ticket because of the negative publicity surrounding his alleged connection to the Vatopedi Monastery property exchange. «I was interested in taking part; I will not hide that, but I am not interested any longer,» said Roussopoulos. «A climate in which there are attempts to flatten everything on the political scene means that I cannot defend myself from slanderous comments, regardless of whether they come from opponents or, unfortunately, so-called friends,» he said. Roussopoulos resigned last October as the investigation into an allegedly corrupt exchange of land between the Vatopedi Monastery and the state gathered pace and speculation mounted that he had coordinated the swap. He denied any wrongdoing. The path now appears clear for Karamanlis to bar others linked to the Vatopedi scandal, such as former Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas and ex-Agriculture Minister Evangelos Bassiakos. The PM is also being pressed to prevent former Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, who resigned over his private business dealings, and former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis, accused of accepting bribes in return for state-subsidized ferry routes, from standing in the next elections.