Greek PM: Voters call for country's course to continue
15. November 2010. | 01:16 08:33
Source: Emg.rs, ANA
Greece's governing Socialists have won mayoral races in Greece's two largest cities for the first time in 24 years, extending gains in local government elections. Socialist-backed mayoral candidates Giorgos Kaminis and Yiannis Boutaris won in the capital Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki, interrupting a streak of conservative victories dating back to 1986.
The governing party led in eight of 13 races for regional governors, clinching the contest in greater Athens and three other regions.
The result provided a badly needed boost for Prime Minister George Papandreou, who is facing growing discontent over austerity and rising unemployment - as well as pressure from European partners to make deeper cuts.
Voter abstention, expected to reach a record high for Greek elections, dominated the political landscape on Sunday during the second round of municipal and regional elections around the country.
In the regional elections, voter participation was given at 46.5 percent, although blank and void ballots totaled a significant 11.3 percent of the vote, as opposed to 61 percent and 9.1 percent in the first round, respectively.
At roughly 9 p.m., ruling PASOK party-backed candidates were expected to pick up eight out of the 13 regions, including two won in the first round and the Attica (greater Athens) region.
In one of the tightest races in memory for the Athens municipality, the country's largest, newcomer Giorgos Kaminis was expected to win the mayorβs race over incumbent Nikitas Kaklamanis by a slim margin. Even closer was the race in Thessaloniki between Costas Gioulekas, backed by main opposition New Democracy and PASOK-backed Yiannis Boutaris, with pollsters shying away from a prediction until all of the ballots are counted.
Former ND MP Vassilis Mihaloliakos was expected to win in the port city of Piraeus over outgoing Piraeus prefect Yiannis Mihas, while Ioannis Dimaras was posting a slim lead over his PASOK-backed challenger in the western port city of Patras.
Prime Minister George Papandreou, commenting on Sunday night on the results of the second round of the local government elections, said that the citizens called for the country's course to continue and voted for political stability. He also appealed to the country's political and social forces to work all together to enable the major problems that the country is facing to be resolved.
The prime minister added that the ballot boxes have closed and "as of tomorrow we will all be called on to assume our responsibilities, without games, extremities and acts of irresponsibility." (ANA-MPA)
As Papandreou said, the citizens "rejected the sirens of destabilisation and gave the government a clear three years of work to enable it to continue the effort for the country's salvation and recovery."
"We have three years to do what had not been done over the past decades," he said.
"Now, we can shake off the burdens of the past," he further said and added that he was determined to proceed with the changes that he has promised, without considering the political cost.
Underlining "the seriousness of the times," Papandreou said that on this path, the path of the country's salvation, all must join forces, pointing out that "a prime minister by himself, or a government by itself, cannot achieve this."
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, commenting on Sunday night on the outcome of the second round of the local government elections, said that "the second round confirmed the political conclusions of the first Sunday."
He congratulated those who won for their victory, as well as those who lost for their struggle and reassured that ND will stand by those elected.
"ND is emerging renewed, strong and responsible," Samaras said and explained that it is emerging strong because it won 33 prefectures as against six that it would have won with the percentages of 2009, renewed because it won five regions, responsible because in cases, such as in Attica, it dared to break establishments and propose new persons.
Samaras referred to the percentage of the first Sunday, saying that PASOK's lead fell from the 10.5 units of last year's elections to a difference of less than two.
The ND leader also spoke of the abstention, saying that public opinion showed that it rejects the deadlocks.
"We received the message," Samaras said, adding that "with our proposals and positions we want to give hopes to the people. And those who voted and those who did not vote, called for a change in course, because with its policy the government is leading economy to suffocation and society to desperation."
The socialists won the elections in time when the country went bankrupt. In order to get financial support from the International Monetary Fund and European institutions, the government had to undertake severe measures of savings, which provoked the unprecedented strikes that are still shaking Greece.
These elections, though local, are the real test for Papandreou’s government. Before the elections he has stated that his government needs support for the austerities. In case it does not happen, he did not exclude early elections for parliament.