Candidates at odds over poll for leadership

New Democracy and its supporters are heading toward an extraordinary party congress next month without a clear picture of how their new leader will be elected, after the three frontrunners for the position all supported different positions at a weekend meeting. The committee – made up of several high-ranking conservative officials – which is organizing the November 7 congress met on Saturday. The three main contenders – Dora Bakoyannis, Antonis Samaras and Dimitris Avramopoulos as well as the rank outsider, Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis – were all invited to put forward their ideas on how the leadership race should be run. Bakoyannis, the former foreign minister, proposed that the congress elect a caretaker leader who would be given the task of organizing another congress within four months to elect a new party president or to hand the task to ND’s organizing committee. Samaras, the ex-culture minister, proposed that next month’s congress should last more than the one day that has been planned, so it can agree on a change to the party’s constitution to allow all party members to vote for the new leader. At present, only the congress delegates can cast their ballots. Avramopoulos, the erstwhile health minister, said that the congress should agree to hold a leadership election in which all members can take part within three weeks of November 7. However, after the meeting, ND supporters remained in the dark about what will actually happen. New Democracy spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos simply emphasized that any change to the party’s constitution will have to be approved by the congress, which means that how and when the leadership election will take place might not be decided until November 7, although the commitee is due to meet again today. One of the main problems that the conservatives are facing is that their current leader and former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is adamant that he will not remain as party president after November 7. If a successor is not elected then, therefore, ND will either have to pick a temporary replacement or risk being without a leader until the process is completed.