Political run-in delays elections

Yesterday’s scheduled elections for a new president and board of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) were postponed after the bulk of voters affiliated with the main opposition PASOK party refused to take part in reaction to recent developments at HOC. In the runup to yesterday’s elections, the country’s two main political parties, ruling New Democracy and PASOK, had agreed on entrepreneur Minos Kyriakou, a shipowner and owner of Antenna TV and radio, as their joint candidate for HOC’s presidential post. But, it appears yesterday’s abstentions were sparked by an apparent attempt by both sides to maximize their control of HOC’s executive committee. Twelve PASOK-affiliated voters – of a total of 36 voters – did not appear to participate in HOC’s electoral proceedings in response to its recent recognition of four new federations, all offshoots of an existing umbrella federation governing ice sports. The four new federations – for ice skating, bobsled, luge, and curling – represent sports that are virtually non-existent in this country. The absentees viewed the creation of three additional federations, with New Democracy backers at the helms, as an attempt by the government to secure more votes for greater control of HOC’s executive committee. The right to vote at HOC elections, held every four years, is reserved for federation presidents, the HOC president and IOC members. Of HOC’s 36 members, the majority are affiliated with the ruling New Democracy party. A new election date has been set for next Monday, but in view of the current situation, it remains unclear how the discrepancies will be overcome. Several HOC members have threatened to raise the matter of the new federations with the IOC. Considering the fuss, Kyriakou, the man backed by both major political parties for the presidential post, agreed that yesterday’s climate was inappropriate for electoral procedures to carry on. Besides aspiring to assume HOC’s top post, Kyriakou also wants to become an IOC member. At present, he is a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) executive committee. Greece is usually represented by two members in the IOC. One of the two currently representing the country, Nikos Filaretos, has reached the job’s 80-year age limit and faces mandatory retirement at the end of this year. Greece’s other IOC member, Lambis Nicolaou, is the outgoing HOC president. The PASOK-affiliated official served as the committee’s chief between 1985 and 1993, and was then re-elected in 1997. Nicolaou was among those who abstained. «Procedures were postponed because we didn’t have a quorum. That’s not pleasant. I want all the federations to be present. I believe there will be a favorable finale to the issue,» said Kyriakou. «Moreover, as the oldest member, Mr Nikos Filaretos will determine the legitimacy of the four new federations.»