07/03/2004 - Results
After three socialist mandates Costas Caramanlis can be proud of being the means by which New Democracy (ND) has finally made it back to power, eleven years after Constantin Mitsotakis (1989-1993) and thirty years after his uncle Constantin Caramanlis (1974-1980). It was in 1961 that Greece witnessed the confrontation between George Papandreou and Constantin Caramanlis, respectively the grandfather and uncle of the present leaders of the two main Greek political movements. Forty three years later, Costas, as the Greeks call him, heralds a new victory for the Caramanlis dynasty over the Papandreous, the two families who have dominated the country's political arena for decades.
"This victory is a great honour", declared the leader of New Democracy on the announcement of the election results. Costas Caramanlis, who is forty seven years old, has succeeded in asserting himself as a real credible alternative to the socialists. Constantin Caramanlis's nephew, who was elected president of New Democracy due to his name, has managed to lay down his authority by making a concerted effort since 1997 to renew his movement that he helped to unify and pacify. Contrary to New Democracy's previous leader Miltiadis Evert, Costas Caramanlis decided to position his party in the centre excluding the most extreme personalities, such as George Karatzaferis, the main representative of the extreme rightwing trend within the party. Under his presidency New Democracy recorded its best result for the last ten years in the last general elections on 9th April 2000, winning 42.73% of the vote, losing to the PASOK by only 70,000 votes. Soon lawyer Costas Caramanlis, who suffered from a distinct lack of image and who had no government experience nor any professional success to note will become the youngest Prime Minister Greece has seen in the last sixty years.
New Democracy's leader has promised to establish the construction of a "new State-Citizen relations" as his priority; this also includes the reduction in the unemployment rate by 3% over the next four years and a convergence of salaries and retirement pensions with the Community average (salaries are 40% lower in Greece than the average across the whole of the EU). He has also promised to put an end to what he qualifies as "the PASOK system". "Since there are funds, abilities and opportunities, a new economic policy is necessary, a new way of seeing matters, a new governance where the economy will not be rigged for the minority in power but a game with common stable rules for all, that are laid out ahead of time, that are transparent and secure", he declared. Costas Caramanlis also promised to strengthen the social security, education, and healthcare budgets, to reduce taxes and to establish incentives for the creation of new companies through tax rebates and a simplification of procedures. The privatisation of the major national companies and the reduction in the number of civil servants also feature in his programme.
The Papandreou miracle did not, therefore, take place and the erosion of power finally beat PASOK; the Greeks believe that a real change was more certain with a new government than if it was led by a party that had been in power for the last eleven years. The wager launched by "George Junior" and the outgoing Prime Minister Costas Simitis was a risky one nevertheless. Indeed it was not necessarily an easy task to embody change bearing a name that has influenced Greek politics for many years and the colours of a movement fatigued after 20 years in power (the PASOK has governed Greece since 1981, with an interruption between 1989 to 1993). The Greeks decided to end PASOK policies and showed their discontent with the poor running of society, the seizure of the State by the Social Democrat Party, the vote-catching and corruption that, in spite of having declined under both mandates of Costas Simitis, had not completely been eradicated. George Papandreou who was courageous and who also helped in starting the reform of his party did not convince his fellow countrymen that he might be the player in a true renaissance. He addressed his rival and admitted defeat on the announcement of the first results offering "all his best wishes for success and for the well-being of Greece".
In a country where the vote by proxy does not exist, 350,000 Greeks did not go to vote in their home constituencies, whilst the law now allows them to fulfil their duty as a citizen from their place of residence. Only 141,000 people took advantage of the new law. For the first time in the big cities they were able to vote for their home constituency in their place of residence in special electoral offices. Fifty thousand expatriate Greeks also travelled home for these general elections.
The new Prime Minister is a convinced European who should continued his country's establishment within the Union as well as settling relations with Turkey. But the reunification of Cyprus and the finalisation of the work for the Athens Olympic Games between 13th and 29th August will comprise the first questions that Costas Caramanlis will have to tackle. New Democracy, that has promised to work with the present managers in preparation for the Games, will notably have to make up for time lost in the work. "These Olympic Games will be the most beautiful and the safest. On this occasion Greece will show the world that it really is a modern nation", ensured the future Prime Minister on Sunday evening.
Results of the Greek general elections on 7th March 2004:
Source: Kapa Research Institute