New Democracy Bigwigs Show Unity

ATHENS – A party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the ruling New Democracy Conservatives will include two former leaders and ex-premiers, Costas Karamanlis and Constantine Mitsotakis.

The party, now led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has fallen behind the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) in polls. Samaras wants to use the commemoration as a rallying cry to marshal forces and support for the austerity measures he imposed on orders of international lenders, and which he said have pushed Greece toward a recovery.

He will be the main speaker at the two events. One will be held in Halkidiki, northern Greece, on Sept. 27 and the other on Oct. 4 in Athens.

With his coalition partner the PASOK Socialists splintered and feuding within itself, Samaras wants to show New Democracy is united and has the backing of its two former leaders, although Karamanlis has largely disappeared from the political scene after a 2009 defeat when his administration was charged with lying about the country’s economic state.

Karamanlis, the nephew of party founder Constantine Karamanlis, will attend both events, while Mitsotakis will only be present at the gathering in Athens due to his frail health.

The celebrations come at a time when the coalition has yet to decide on who its Presidential candidate will be and with doubts about whether it will be able to secure the 180 votes needed to elect someone and avoid national elections.

In an interview with Reuters in New York, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos suggested the government might opt for a non-political figure from the arts or academia.

“We have some scenarios but we are absolutely open,” said Venizelos with regards to who might replace Karolos Papoulias when his term ends in March.