October 13, 2002

13 October 2002: Unpopular conservative opposition candidate for the Athens-Piraeus prefecture Yannis Tzannetakos (L) suffers a crushing defeat in the first round of the local elections as socialist Fofi Yennimata (R) triumphs with 40.1 percent of the vote. Tzannetakos only got a meagre 26.7 percent. New Democracy emerged the first-round winner of local government elections - sweeping cities and gaining regions - but failed to inflict fatal damage on the faltering Pasok government and trigger an early election. Progress in preparations for the Olympic Games, the apparent capture of November 17

and a continued European commitment to admit Cyprus into the EU have averted a stronger conservative comeback. The dramatic loss of the Athens-Piraeus 'super-prefecture' (an area representing nearly three million voters) virtually cancelled ND celebrations over the landslide victory of the popular conservative MP Dora Bakoyannis in the race for the mayorship of Athens. Bakoyannis became Athens' first woman mayor, polling 47.4 percent, while her Socialist opponent Christos Papoutsis barely got 26 percent. Conservatives were also just shy of first-round victory with Mayor Christos Agrapidis in Piraeus, while Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos was re-elected outright. 'We are the biggest political force in the country,' New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said after the October 13 vote. Added to ND's first-round prize list were the prefecture of Thessaloniki and the umbrella prefecture of Drama-Kavala-Xanthi. In Attica, conservatives were elected mayors in Voula, Paleo Psychico and Pefki without a runoff.
Socialists, however, held their ground in many strongholds and even made a few surprise gains. The Pasok government, escaping with a relatively light bruising, appeared almost upbeat with the result. 'It is obvious that local government has become stronger and more independent... The results of Athens-Piraeus are very important after the clear win of Ms Yennimata,' Premier Costas Simitis said on election night. Four years later, the balance of power between the two main parties may have been reversed, but Yennimata seems poised for a second term as Attica super-prefect after the local elections on October.

Dimitris Yannopoulos

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(Posting date 20 October 2006 )

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