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Athens News Agency: News in English, 04-03-07

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Greek general elections March 7, 2004

  • [01] Greek general elections March 7, 2004

    07/03/2004 08:28:04

    To-day, March 7 and just 159 days before the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games, Greek citizens will cast their votes to elect the next prime minister, the same leader who will have the honor of officially addressing the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

    To-day's elections, 30 years after the collapse of a military junta in Greece, mark the end of a period following the restoration of democracy in the country.

    For the first time in Greeces modern history, both contenders for the premiership were born after the divisive Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Both George Papandreou and Costas Karamanlis are relatively young politicians who have the serious task of relieving the countrys political system from certain rigidities of the past.

    Aside from being close in age, they also have another thing in common: both are relatives of the two most significant Greek leaders in the post-WWII era.

    Papandreou is the son of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) founder and three-time prime minister Andreas Papandreou, as well as the grandson of George Papandreou, who also served as the countrys prime minister in the 1960s.

    Karamanlis is the nephew of Constantine Karamanlis, founder of the New Democracy (ND) party, prime minister in the 50s, 60s and again in the 70s, as well as a former president of the republic.

    George Papandreou

    George Papandreou is the third Papandreou to run for prime minister. The 52-year-old sociologist and economist was elected PASOKs president at an extraordinary party congress held in early February.

    He attended Massachusetts Amherst College and the London School of Economics for post-graduate studies.

    He has close to 20 years experience in government, having been appointed deputy culture minister for the first time in 1985. He also headed the ministry of education, while in February 1999 he became foreign affairs minister until his election as party leader last month. Papandreou has 23 years experience as MP, serving continuously in Parliament since 1981 (at the age of 29).

    He is a founding member of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly and serves as a Vice-President of the International Olympic Truce Foundation.

    In 1997, Papandreou was awarded the Greek-Turkish peace and friendship award Abdi Ipekci for his efforts to strengthen relations between Athens and Ankara.

    He is married to Ada Papapanou-Papandreou, a civil engineer, and has a son and daughter.

    For more information visit his website at

    Costas Karamanlis

    A lawyer and international affairs experts, 48-year old Costas Karamanlis has been ND leader for the past seven years, after being elected to the position at the partys 4th congress.

    He came 70,000 votes short of becoming prime minister in the previous April 2000 elections, losing to PASOK rival Costas Simitis, the current premier. Karamanlis has not held a Cabinet portfolio because PASOK has been in power since 1981, excluding the period of 1990-1993, when a ND government under Constantine Mitsotakis was in power.

    Polls during the pre-election period showed ND ahead up to Feb. 20.

    His career as MP began in 1989 at the age of 33 and continued for the next 15 years. Since 1999, he serves as a vice-president of the European Peoples Party (EPP) and in June 2002 was elected vice president of the International Democrat Union during the summit of the centre-right and Christian Democrat parties in Washington.

    Karamanlis studied at the Athens University Law School and continued with post-graduate studies at Tufts Universitys Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston.

    He is married to Natasa Pazaitis-Karamanlis and is the father of twins, a boy and girl.

    For more information visit NDs website at

    The winner of to-day's elections will lead a country that has been a member of the ?euro-zone? since the common European currency was introduced. Greece is the fastest-growing economy in the EU at present, while a myriad of infrastructure projects in light of the upcoming 2004 Olympic Games has significantly improved certain sectors.

    While Greece is the most robust economy in SE Europe, one aimed at reaching west European levels, the country also has to deal with several key problems, including high unemployment, bureaucracy, corruption, deficiencies in the education and health care sectors, the long-standing Cyprus issue as well as fully normalising Greece-Turkey relations.

    The Battle Between the Two Parties

    Comparative figures for PASOK and ND since 1981


    1981 48.07% 35.88% 83.95%

    1985 45.82% 40.84% 86.66%

    1989 39.13% 44.28% 83.41%

    1989 40.68% 46.19% 86.87%

    1990 38.61% 46.89% 85.50%

    1993 46.88% 39.30% 86.18%

    1996 41.49% 38.12% 79.61%

    2000 43.79% 42.73% 86.52%

    The rivalry between PASOK and ND since 1981, when the former first came into power, has occurred within a polarised political climate. The prevalence of the two parties on the Greek political scene is evident from the percentage of votes the two parties have garnered since then in practically every election.

    For as long as Andreas Papandreou led PASOK, both parties represented more than 80 percent of the electorate. After Papandreous death in 1996 and the withdrawal of political veteran Constantine Mitsotakis from NDs leadership in 1993, the two parties combined influence dipped below 80 percent (in the 1996 elections the two parties polled 79.61 percent of the electorate). However, this slight decline proved temporary, since in April 2000 PASOK and ND earned a total of 86.52 percent of the votes.

    All polls regarding the March 7 elections show the two parties utterly dominating again. If forecasts prove accurate, it is almost certain that PASOK and ND will achieve combined results close to those of the 2000 elections.


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