Both Sides Claim Success in Greek Municipal Elections
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A government-backed candidate for mayor narrowly won over former actress Melina Mercouri in Athens, but leftist candidates emerged victorious on Monday in three of Greece’s five largest cities.
Sunday’s nationwide municipal elections were widely viewed as a referendum on the economic austerity policies of the conservative New Democracy Party of Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, who took office in April.
Mitsotakis and opposition leaders, including socialist former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, both claimed success in the voting for mayors and council members.
In the capital, Antonis Tritsis, a former socialist minister supported by New Democracy, got 50.15 percent of the vote to defeat former Minister of Culture Mercouri, a member of Parliament from Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, and star of the film ″Never on Sunday.″
It was the first time in 15 years a candidate for mayor in Athens was elected in the first round, where an absolute majority is needed for victory.
Tritsis, twice a Fulbright Scholar at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, takes office in January, He succeeds Nikos Yatrakos, a New Democracy member.
Leftist candidates, backed jointly by PASOK and the Communist-led Coalition of the Left and Progress, won races in Piraeus, the country’s major port city; Patras, and Iraklion on the island of Crete.
Incomplete results from the Interior Ministry indicated 219 mayors were elected and that runoff elections will be held Sunday in 146 races, including mayoral campaigns in Salonica, Greece’s second-largest city.
No official results were available late Monday from the hundreds of communities throughout the country.
In Patras, about 100 miles west of Athens, police used tear gas to disperse rioters early Monday following victory celebrations by supporters of incumbent socialist mayor Andreas Karavolas.
The Athens News Agency reported that 33 police and rioters were injured and six people were arrested.
In Salonica, about 200 miles north of Athens, conservative Constantinos Cosmopoulos won 48.2 percent of the vote, short of an absolute majority. Dimitris Fatouros, joint candidate of the socialists and the coalition, received 47 percent.
Papandreou claimed the results showed conservatives lost 5 percent to 10 percent of their strength nationwide. He did not elaborate on how he determined this.
Mitsotakis said the results indicated conservatives increased their presence by at least 20 percent over the 1986 municipal elections, and showed public acceptance of government efforts to revive the flagging economy.
Mitsotakis is struggling to control inflation running at 25 percent and reduce a $10 billion public debt. He seeks to sell some state-controlled industries and streamline the bankrupt social security system.
Marches and strikes have been staged to protest the programs.