ND heads for tense election showdown

Antonis Samaras and Dora Bakoyannis rounded off their campaigns for the leadership of New Democracy with rallies in central Athens last night ahead of tomorrow’s vote, the outcome of which remains in doubt. The role of the third candidate, Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis, remains crucial to the final result. Sources said yesterday that Psomiadis was coming under pressure from some high-ranking party figures to step aside, even at the last minute, so that either Samaras or Bakoyannis could get the 50 percent needed to prevent a second round of voting next weekend. Psomiadis is said to have resisted these calls, insisting that he will stand tomorrow when ND members, including those who sign up on the day just by showing their passport or identification card, will be able to cast their ballots at 1,039 electoral centers around the country. Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., meaning that there will be an indication of who, if anyone, is the winner later the same night. In his speech last night, Samaras stressed that ND was undergoing a «democratic revolution» as the grassroots supporters had been able to force the hierarchy to allow them to have a say in the choice of leader. Previously, delegates at the ND congress elected the party president. He also accused Bakoyannis, who wants the party to attract more middle-ground voters, of trying to turn the party into PASOK. In her address, the former foreign minister asked for conservative supporters to give her a clear mandate to create a «big and strong New Democracy.» She accused Samaras, who favors a more right-wing than centrist approach, of cutting the party off from voters.

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