NEWS

Samaras building ND bridges

As part of an attempt to ensure unity, Antonis Samaras continued yesterday his efforts to mend fences with high-profile New Democracy figures who opposed his election as party leader. Samaras, who earlier this week held talks with his rival for the ND presidency Dora Bakoyannis and a number of her most prominent backers within the party, met yesterday with former Defense Minister and New Democracy secretary Evangelos Meimarakis. The latter was one of Samaras’s fiercest critics within the party during the leadership campaign. Meimarakis had been particularly critical about the new leader’s actions between 1992 and 1993, when as foreign minister he adopted a hard line in negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that went contrary to the desires of then Premier Constantine Mitsotakis. The clash of ideas and personalities led to Samaras quitting the conservative government and forming his own party, a decision that led to ND falling from power. Meimarakis, however, appeared yesterday to put this behind him and seemed to follow the lead of Samaras, who said after he was elected on Sunday that he would wipe clean all the differences of the past. «As you know, since 1974 and up to this day, I have always been present and willing to fight in the front line for New Democracy’s values,» said Meimarakis. «I will do the same thing now. We will all give our best so that New Democracy moves forward.» Sources said that there was no discussion between the two men about Meimarakis taking up a specific role within the party but should Samaras decide to form a shadow cabinet, then it is possible that Meimarakis will be asked to fill the post of shadow defense minister. Further backing for Samaras came from the unlikely source of famed composer Mikis Theodorakis who said in a statement yesterday that he backed the ND leader’s tough stance on the Macedonia name issue and talks on the reunification of Cyprus. However, two ND members quit the party in protest at Samaras’s policies. Hania Prefect Grigoris Archontakis said that he was unhappy that the party is moving to the right. Former Thrace MP Ahmet Ilhan cited comments by Samaras against the idea of Muslims standing for Parliament as the reason for his decision to depart.