Karamanlis set to step in

Former Premier Costas Karamanlis is expected to step in to resolve the impasse over the New Democracy leadership by agreeing to stay on as party leader for two or three more weeks, sources said yesterday, as ex-Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos officially announced his candidacy. Karamanlis had been adamant that he would step down at ND’s extraordinary congress on November 7 to allow a new leader to take over. But with pressure mounting for the next ND president to be elected by all party members, not just the 4,500 congress delegates, there is a growing possibility that the conservatives would be left leaderless after November 7. This is because the congress would have to approve a change to the party’s constitution so that the vote could be opened up to all members. As a result, many in the party are now turning to Karamanlis, hoping that he will stay on a little longer, to allow ballot boxes to be set up at ND’s offices around the country and for the leadership election to take place. «I think he’s thinking about it,» said former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who on Monday announced her candidacy for party leader. Sources said Karamanlis will be officially asked on Friday by the ND organizing committee to remain as party president and that he is almost certain to accept prolonging his stay for up to three weeks. In the meantime, Karamanlis has told his closest aides to avoid declaring themselves in favor of any particular candidate. Avramopoulos, who is in favor of allowing all party members to vote, as he believes it gives him a better chance of winning, announced his candidacy in a televised statement last night. «All these years I have been in politics, I have operated without personal mechanisms, without behind-the-scenes machinations,» he said. «My strength has always been you: society. That is where I come from, that is where I draw my inspiration.» He said that the message of the October 4 elections to ND was to «change everything.»