Tussle for Athens hots up

With just 48 hours to go until Athenians go to the polls to elect their new mayor, both candidates told Kathimerini that, if elected, they would get the municipality to buy properties in the city center, which they would then rent out to young couples at a favorable rate as a way of bringing people back to downtown areas that have been affected by crime and poverty. Responding to questions from Kathimerini, incumbent Nikitas Kaklamanis and challenger Giorgos Kaminis had similar positions on several other policies as well, such as extending the pay parking scheme in central Athens and aiming to get more Athenians to recycle their trash. However, their opinions differed on other issues. Kaminis suggested that he would improve the lighting of streets and squares and get the municipal police, in cooperation with the regular force, to carry out around-the-clock foot patrols in an effort to drive out criminals. Kaklamanis placed more emphasis on rehabilitating drug addicts, saying that the City of Athens would run its own program to treat 1,170 patients. The municipality has also been at the forefront of a campaign to move state-run drug treatment centers out of downtown Athens so they can be housed in hospitals. Kaklamanis said this policy would continue if he wins a second term. The two candidates also took different views on how to deal with illegal street traders. Kaklamanis emphasized the effort that is being made to confiscate their goods and prevent them from carrying out business. Kaminis pledged that in the first year of his mayorship he would set up licensed street markets where immigrants would be able to operate stalls and sell goods legally, issuing receipts to customers. Kaminis trailed Kaklamanis in the first round but is hoping to pick up support from other independent candidates. The former Ombudsman, who has been endorsed by PASOK, met yesterday with TV presenter Giorgos Amyras, who stood as an independent in the first round and gained 7.37 percent of the vote. It is perhaps a sign of how close the second round is expected to be that Kaklamanis also met with Amyras yesterday, as both candidates hope to convince his supporters to vote for them. Amyras refused to publicly back either hopeful.