WHEN George Papandreou tapped then deputy economy minister Markos Bolaris to stand for the governorship of Central Macedonia, the candidate knew he was undertaking a virtual mission impossible.
In a deeply conservative region, he was up against popular Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis, who has a wide electoral base and a formidable political machine. In the first round of local elections on November 7, Bolaris placed second but trailed Psomiadis by more than 12 percentage points.
However, Bolaris told the Athens News in an interview that he hopes to give Psomiadis a run for his money by picking up the votes of all the tickets (leftwing and Laos) excluded from the runoff ballot on November 14.
“I’ve called on all the other tickets to join a front against conservatism, to achieve development, transparency and political honesty,” said Bolaris, alleging there had been corruption in the Thessaloniki prefecture under Psomiadis.
In step with the Pasok line, Bolaris insists that voters will treat the runoff as a new race, in which local government issues will prevail. (Psomiadis and New Democracy are still running on an anti-bailout-memorandum platform.)
Dismissing the frontrunner as a self-promoter more interested in lifestyle than problem solving, Bolaris noted that Psomiadis lost 10 percentage points from the 48 percent he garnered in 2006.
Bolaris argues that the KKE cannot support Psomiadis - “someone who did political favours and lacked transparency”. He says the same stands for rightwing Laos, whose candidate, Kyriakos Velopoulos, ran against Psomiadis in the first round on a clean-hands platforms.
As for the Ecogreens, they already declared their support for Bolaris, who is hoping that Syriza and Democratic Left voters will pick him due to similarities in their platform.
“All three slammed the lack of transparency and ineffective management in the prefecture,” he said.
“These parties also blasted Psomiadis’ environmental record, especially in Lake Koronia. We lost 20 million euros in EU funds because Psomiadis failed to complete the preparatory work to absorb the funding. Now the EU is threatening us with fines of 100,000 euros a day for our failure to protect the area,” Bolaris says.
A vague idea
With nearly 28 percent unemployment among youths of 15 to 24 years of age, Bolaris sees a “socially explosive” situation that urgently demands development ideas. “We have specific proposals, whereas Psomiadis is vague.”
Pasok’s candidate admits that his party’s relatively poor showing on November 7 “was a message from citizens facing hardships, including wage and pension cuts”.
Bolaris says that the support for Pasok renegade candidates reflected the same popular dissatisfaction.
“That message was received. But what reduced Pasok’s percentages mainly was the high level of abstention. I think that will be smaller in the runoff.”
He insisted that voters believe that New Democracy is mainly to blame for the fiscal crisis.
“People know who is responsible for the fact that Greece came to the brink of bankruptcy, those who did not take the necessary measures when they should have,” Bolaris said.
“In the runoff, voters will pick the person best able to build the new post of regional governor, and that candidate is the one who believes in [Pasok’s] Kallikratis reform.”
Athens News 15/Nov/2010 page 6
Local elections 2010