Split over ND vote threatens disruption

The four candidates vying for the leadership of New Democracy were no clearer last night to agreeing on how the vote will take place, ahead of what threatens to be a fractious meeting of the party’s central committee today. Dora Bakoyannis, Antonis Samaras, Dimitris Avramopoulos and Panayiotis Psomiadis held talks yesterday in a bid to settle a dispute that has broken out this week over who will be able to vote in the upcoming election for New Democracy president. Avramopoulos, a former health minister, insisted that «friends» of the party, who do not sign up to become ND members, should be allowed to cast a ballot. Psomiadis said he is not opposed to this plan and Samaras said he could also agree to this process under certain conditions. However, Bakoyannis is opposed to any further changes. She says all four candidates signed up to a specific process, which will see the party books remain open until the final minutes before the election is held in late November or early December so that new members can join. The ex-foreign minister believes this gives anyone who wants to have a say in proceedings ample opportunity to take part and that there is no need to open up the process to «friends,» as PASOK has done in recent leadership elections. All four candidates are due to address the meeting of the ND central committee today and some conservatives fear that this split over the voting process may become divisive. There is also concern about the fact that the floor will be open to speakers, such as former MPs who lost their seats in the October 4 general elections, who will want to vent their anger at the party and specific officials for ND’s dismal defeat.