Karamanlis urges greater unity

After 12 years as leader of New Democracy, Costas Karamanlis made his final speech to the party’s MPs yesterday, calling for the conservatives to support the government when appropriate but also to be more united than they were during his premiership. Although Karamanlis made reference to what he called a «painful» election defeat, the focus of his address was on the future. One of the main concerns that Karamanlis expressed was that ND should pull together after its demoralizing loss and that the next leader should get the party’s full backing. «The time has come for the new leader to emerge from the party’s inexhaustible reserves of strength,» said Karamanlis in reference to the leadership election set to take place on December 6. «You will stand, and we will all stand, next to him or her the day after they are elected.» Karamanlis suggested he did not receive the support he should have from some conservatives when trying to pass structural reforms. «I know that few accepted them from the start,» he said. «I know that once they were announced, most doubted them immediately. I know that when they were voted on, many rejected them and I know that when they were implemented, most said we should have been bolder.» Leaving aside ND politics, Karamanlis also called on his party to help achieve consensus with the PASOK government when the situation justified it. «The two main parties should work together on common ground with seriousness, responsibility and trustworthiness.» The first sign of such consensus between PASOK and ND was Karamanlis making it clear that the conservatives would back Karolos Papoulias, the government’s preferred candidate, to continue as president. Papoulias, 80, said yesterday he intends to stand for a second five-year term.