ND in turmoil over leadership vote

A fresh row has broken out within New Democracy over who will be allowed to vote in the upcoming leadership election after one of the candidates, ex-Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, accused the party hierarchy of going back on its word. Avramopoulos suggested earlier this week that in addition to party members, citizens registering as friends of the party should also be allowed to vote for ND’s leader, even without actually joining the party. PASOK used this format in its most recent leadership elections and Avramopoulos believes that it would be a way of getting more people involved in the process, while at the same time boosting ND’s chances of reconnecting with voters. Avramopoulos suggested that this is what the four candidates had agreed on and signed up to in the presence of the party’s organizing committee. Former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis denied her colleague’s claims. «We have all signed an agreement,» she said on Tuesday. «The agreement refers to members that can sign up right to the last minute, the moment of the actual vote. «I do not want to get into a discussion again about the process. There is a central committee, proposals can be submitted there so it can decide.» Following Avramopoulos’s claims, the head of the ND organizing committee, Dimitris Sioufas, issued a statement saying that all four candidates had agreed that party members and «citizens wishing to become party members» would be allowed to vote in the leadership election. The conservatives are due to hold an extraordinary congress on November 7, when delegates will be asked to vote in favor of an amendment to the party’s constitution that will allow ND members to elect the leader. Previously, only congress delegates could do so. Former Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis has also expressed his disappointment with the process to elect a new leader and said that he would not take part in the congress if it is going to be just a «three- or four-hour meeting» during which the reasons for ND’s election defeat are not debated.