Local polls tomorrow

Greeks go to the polls tomorrow to elect their local and regional government representatives, after a campaign which the major parties treated as a rehearsal for parliamentary elections. New Democracy, which has been ahead of the ruling PASOK party in opinion polls over the last year, has called on voters to «send a message» to the government, trying to maintain the momentum that it believes will bring it to power in elections that are due by spring of 2004. Its candidate for Athens, Dora Bakoyianni, running against PASOK’s Christos Papoutsis, is the favorite to become the capital’s first woman mayor on January 1. The conservatives also expect to keep their mayors in office in Thessaloniki and Piraeus, the country’s two other major cities. ND believes these three candidates may each get over 50 percent tomorrow and so avoid a runoff vote next Sunday. ND officials also predict that at the provincial level, they can win between 29 and 33 of 54 prefectures, while PASOK expects 18 or 20 in what officials term a «manageable loss.» PASOK has kept up its attack on New Democracy for its purported connections with the extreme right, even though the main proponent of that tendency, Giorgos Karadzaferis, was booted out of New Democracy in 2000 for insulting top officials – and the party made clear on Thursday that the divorce was final. Karadzaferis is a candidate for «super-prefect» of the Athens-Piraeus region, along with PASOK’s Fofi Yennimata and ND’s Yiannis Tzannetakos. With Yennimata leading in the polls, PASOK has been focusing on this giant constituency as a way of deflecting attention from ND across the rest of the country. PASOK officials said yesterday that according to their polls, Yennimata still enjoyed a 12 percent lead over Tzannetakos, while ND said its man had closed the gap to 7 percent. Karadzaferis, Greece’s answer to France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, is expected to get 7-8 percent, giving his LAOS party momentum to gain supporters and run in national elections but not allowing him to go into the second round. Of the 200,000 candidates nationwide, 47,821 will be elected. Of those, three will head combined prefectures, 47 will be prefects, seven prefects of prefectural departments, 1,450 prefect council members, 901 mayors, about 16,700 municipal council members, 22,446 local council members, 130 presidents of communities and 830 community council members.