NEWS

Samaras opts for two ND VPs

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras decided yesterday on the two men who will support his bid to attract middle-class voters back to the party following its disastrous performance in last year’s general election. Samaras appointed former Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and ex-European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas as the party’s two vice presidents, roles in which the pair will be expected to stand by Samaras, augment ND’s appeal and ensure that the party remains united. Avramopoulos was originally one of the four candidates who ran for the party leadership last November but, when opinion polls showed him coming in third, he threw his weight behind Samaras’s bid for the presidency. Dimas served for more than five years as a European commissioner and held several ministerial posts in a political career that began in 1977. By appointing two vice presidents rather than one, Samaras hopes that their working together will ensure harmony within the conservative ranks. Also, the fact that he did not have to choose between the two ND heavyweights means that he has not created any bad blood for the future. Samaras is attempting to claw back a 10-percent gap on PASOK following last year’s election but has committed himself to persisting with right-wing, or social liberal, policies rather than trying to appeal to the middle ground. New Democracy members are due to vote today on whether to appoint Andreas Lykourentzos, a former deputy education minister, as the party’s new secretary. Lykourentzos, who will stand unopposed, is seen as another unifying candidate, as he has links to Samaras but is also respected by ND members close to ex-Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.