ND gets serious in Athens

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras yesterday tried to dispel rumors that the party is not fully behind its candidate for Athens mayor, incumbent Nikitas Kaklamanis, as the conservatives step up their campaign to shock the government by winning control of the country’s three biggest municipalities and the Attica region in Sunday’s second round of local elections. Samaras, who will be touring the country this week in a bid to drum up support for ND candidates, met with Kaklamanis in Athens and said his experience compared to the inexperience of rival candidate Giorgos Kaminis would be vital for Athens. «The [EU-IMF] memorandum not only makes things tough in the marketplace, it also affects local administration,» said the ND leader. «That’s why we have to choose people who have the knowledge and the ability to fight for things. That’s why I came here today to wish good luck to Nikitas Kaklamanis.» Kaklamanis, the current mayor, got almost 35 percent of the vote on Sunday but Kaminis, running as an independent with the support of PASOK and Democratic Left, did better than expected by gaining just over 28 percent. It had been rumored that ND’s leadership does not see eye to eye with Kaklamanis as he is unwilling to toe the party line. However, faced with the possibility that Kaminis might cause an upset on Sunday, the conservatives have rallied around the incumbent Athens mayor. A victory for Kaklamanis could also be part of a memorable Sunday night for ND, as it also seeks to control the municipalities of Piraeus and Thessaloniki. In Piraeus, ND’s candidate Vassilis Michaloliakos trailed PASOK’s Yiannis Michas by 29.6 to 23. But the conservative received a boost yesterday when Petros Mantouvalos, the independent who placed third with almost 19 percent, declared his support for Michaloliakos. Samaras is also hoping that the party’s little-known candidate for Attica governor, Vassilis Kikilias, will be able to cause a major upset by beating PASOK’s Yiannis Sgouros, who was Attica prefect until now. Sgouros gained 24 percent compared to Kikilias’s 20 percent in the first round but ND hopes that it will be able to convince some of the voters who supported independent Yiannis Dimaras, who campaigned on an anti-memorandum platform, to back the conservative candidate.