ND seeks Church help

As the two major parties prepare for the second and final round of municipal and regional elections, New Democracy appeared to be shaken, acting spasmodically to try to gain ground it lost in the battle for the Athens-Piraeus super-prefecture. Although the conservatives appeared to make gains throughout the country, they have been seriously rattled by what seems like the certain loss of Athens-Piraeus next Sunday – and the fact that the Church of Greece might have played a role in this because of ND’s choice of candidate for super-prefect. The conservatives’ candidates for prefect of Athens and Piraeus visited Archbishop Christodoulos without telling the leader of their ticket, Yiannis Tzannetakos, who is anathema to the archbishop for having supported the PASOK government in its decision to scrap the mention of religion on identity cards. Senior party officials criticized the visit, which Piraeus candidate Mary Tsanakis said was for the archbishop’s «blessing,» especially as this came only hours after Christodoulos was quoted by sources as telling a clerical gathering on Monday that «The people who voted for Giorgos Karadzaferis are not extreme right-wingers, they are good Christians.» Although Christodoulos yesterday denied making such a statement, he has made no secret of his opposition to Tzannetakos’s candidacy. On Sunday, the ticket headed by PASOK’s Fofi Yennimata won 40.1 percent, followed by Tzannetakos’s ticket with 26.7 percent and Giorgos Karadzaferis, leader of the extreme right LAOS party with 13.6 percent. Karadzaferis, who has threatened legal action against anyone calling him «a Nazi, a fascist or extreme right-winger,» had four members of a neo-Nazi group on his ticket. His was the strongest showing by an extreme right-wing candidate since the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1974. Karadzaferis had based his campaign on the support Tzannetakos, a centrist who is not a member of ND, had given the government on the ID card issue. The visit to the archbishopric by Tsanaki and Athens candidate Athanassios Veziryiannis gave PASOK secretary general Costas Laliotis the opportunity to pour scorn on the opposition. «New Democracy’s candidate prefects have abandoned their leader, Mr Tzannetakos, and, panicking, have rushed to the archbishop for his blessing,» he said after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.