PASOK slips some jokers in local poll deck

There was an indication yesterday of how November’s local elections could see incremental but significant changes on Greece’s political landscape, as PASOK named a former New Democracy minister, an independent and a nonpolitical candidate on its ticket for the polls. After weeks of speculation, the Socialists announced their candidates for the 13 regional authorities and for the country’s biggest municipalities. PASOK opted for former Ombudsman Giorgos Kaminis as its candidate for mayor of Athens. The decision to pick Kaminis, an ex-law professor, breaks new ground on several levels. Firstly, it is unusual for a major party to back a nonpolitical candidate who is not a high-profile celebrity or a sportsperson. Kaminis is a respected figure after serving as Ombudsman for seven years, during which he and his team dealt with citizens’ complaints about a range of services. Kaminis stepped down from his position last month after being approached by the head of the Democractic Left party, Fotis Kouvelis, about the possibility of running for mayor. The second aspect that makes Kaminis’s candidature an interesting political litmus test is that he will have the backing of both PASOK and Democratic Left, a leftist party that was formed this summer by disgruntled members of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). It represents both a rare coming together of different political forces but also a test of whether these parties can cooperate together, albeit at the local level. Kaminis will be up against New Democracy’s candidate and current mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis. A former colleague of Kaklamanis’s in the previous New Democracy government, Petros Tatoulis, has been given PASOK’s backing as he challenges to become head of the regional authority in the Peloponnese. Tatoulis, who is standing as an independent, was ousted from ND in November 2008 after repeatedly criticizing then Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. The prospect of Tatoulis, a self-declared centrist, now cooperating with PASOK is another unusual move in Greek politics. Another independent who will also receive PASOK’s support is winemaker Yiannis Boutaris, who is standing for a second time for mayor of Thessaloniki. In 2006, he stood as a candidate with the Ecologist Greens and gained 16 percent of the vote. The respected businessman was also involved in the formation of the centrist party Drasi.