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Greece: Papandreou Breaks a Promise

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Of all the surprises that the unpredictable Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has pulled since he came to power in 1981, last Saturday’s announcement was among the most startling. Contrary to his own promises, Papandreou declared that his ruling socialist PASOK party would not support President Constantine Caramanlis, 78, for reelection later this month. The President immediately withdrew his candidacy.

For many Greeks, the conservative Caramanlis has served as a comforting balance to the leftist Papandreou. With Caramanlis in power, they reasoned, Papandreou could never enact his party’s “strategic targets,” which include withdrawing from NATO and closing down all U.S. bases in Greece. “It was a coup de theatre, in total disrespect for accepted political practices,” said a stunned Greek newspaper editor.

Papandreou had planned to back Caramanlis as a way of reassuring voters and thus ensuring his own victory in national elections scheduled for the fall. But opposition by militant members of PASOK persuaded Papandreou to change his mind at the last minute. Instead, the Prime Minister endorsed a moderate, Supreme Court Judge Christos Sartzetakis, for the post.

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