|Wednesday, 17 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-10-16
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Results from Sunday's first round local gov't electionsRuling New Democracy picked up 26 out of the 52 prefectures in the country during the first round of local government elections on Sunday, as main opposition PASOK secured 15 prefectures, whereas two prefectures went to a candidate jointly supported by PASOK and the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos).
The first round's tally leaves ND two prefectures short of its 2002 showing, 28 prefectures, although seven prefectural seats will go to a second round on Sunday, Oct. 22, namely: Arcadia, Karditsa, Cephallonia, Lefkada, Magnesia, Serres and Hania. Conversely, PASOK picked up 21 prefectures during the 2002 elections.
PASOK-backed Fofi Yennimata easily won the Athens-Piraeus supra-prefecture, while ND-backed Panayiotis Psomiadis fended off last week's negative media barrage to take Thessaloniki prefecture in the first round.
Eight prefectures changed political "camps": Aetoloakarnania and Pella passed from ND to PASOK, whereas Thesprotia, Corfu, Kozani, Florina, Halkidiki and Grevena passed from PASOK to ND.
In 52 prefecture capitals, 31 mayoral candidates were elected in the first round, meaning that the top candidate garnered more than 42 percent of the vote. The second round will be necessary for the remaining 21 prefectural capitals.
Out of the 31 former cities, ruling New Democracy-backed candidates won in 13 out of the 31 races; main opposition PASOK-backed candidates in nine races; four independent candidates hailing from ND won their races, while four independent candidates supported by PASOK and the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) won their races. Exactly one candidate, the winner in the Samos mayoral race, lacked a strict party affiliation.
Meanwhile, after first-round election victories posted in both Athens (Nikitas Kaklamanis) and Piraeus (Panayiotis Fassoulas), Thessaloniki ranks as the biggest municipality where the mayoral race will go to a second round, with incumbent Vassilis Papageorgopoulos just missing the cut with 41.43 percent of the vote to PASOK deputy Chryssa Arapoglou's 21.59 percent.
On his part, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday said the level of voter turnout on Sunday reached 72.43 percent, marginally down from 72.62 percent in the last local government poll of 2002. The figures more-or-less dispute certain press reports citing voter apathy near the 40-percent mark.
As of Monday, he said the number of votes counted in the prefectural elections was 98.6 percent of the total; 98 percent for mayoral races, with 247 municipalities and communities up for grabs on Sunday.
Finally, two new Parliament deputies will be sworn in to replace ND's Kaklamanis and newly elected Irakleio (Crete) prefect Evangelia Schinaraki-Iliaki, with Greek silver screen veteran Maro Kontou set to replace the former and Ioannis Skoulas replacing the latter for PASOK.
In comments during his regular press briefing, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos echoed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' televised statements from the previous evening, noting that "these elections shouldn't be politicised, but if someone, however, wanted to politicise them, then you'd have to refer to a large number of prefectures that chose candidates backed by the ruling party..."
Asked about the premier's reference to "mistakes" during his address less than 24 hours, Roussopoulos stressed:
"We're not inerrable; we're aiming at the best. We're constantly assessing ourselves, we're receiving criticism by all sides and we're constantly struggling for something better. The sum of our policy is correct, generating tangible results. The primary axis of our direction, one chosen by the citizens in national elections, is reform, and this is continuing," he added.
In a reaction, PASOK Secretary Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou repeated comments by PASOK leader George Papandreou from a day earlier, namely, that a "change in the country's political landscape" resulted from Sunday evening's results, a "message", she added, that is "clear and strong", but one that the premier and government are not receiving.
On his part, PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said this "political message" was aimed at all of ruling ND's policies.
Coalition party satisfied
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party expressed satisfaction over the results of the municipal end prefectural elections in an announcement issued by its Political Secretariat following its meeting on Monday.
"The Coalition's decision to support groups jointly composed with other leftist movement and ecological forces was rewarded by the electorate," the announcement said, adding that "data obtained from the first Sunday already show the clear upward trend of our forces, as well as a widening of its presence in local administration."
 Premier confers with FM ahead of EU Council of MinistersPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday morning with foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, ahead of Tuesday's General Affairs meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers, to take place in Luxembourg, and also to discuss Turkey's EU prospect.
Replying to questions on Sunday's nationwide local government elections in Greece, and particularly on whether the election results indicated problems in the main opposition PASOK party, Bakoyannis said that PASOK will conduct its own analysis as to the citizens' support of the candidates the party had chosen to back.
She said that the choices of the ruling New Democracy party (ND) had been vindicated, adding that one should not forget that Sunday's elections were for the local governments, in which the individual candidates themselves plaed a significant role.
Asked to comment on barbs among ministers, Bakoyannis said that she had been on a number of televised panel discussions on Sunday, and no such barbs had been voiced by ND ministers.
She added, however, that cadres who are linked by common struggles and have cooperated in the past would cooperate closely again in the immediate future.
 Gov't again appeals to teachersThe government on Monday repeated its call to teachers to end their strike and return to classrooms. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed that, while everyone respected the important work that they did, state finances made it impossible to meet their demands.
"The government has clearly said, presenting the figures, that it cannot follow another economic policy at present," he told reporters during the regular press briefing.
"This difficult economic situation did not arise suddenly. It arose because of the real figures of the economy, which Greek citizens and the European Commission are aware of. This situation allows a certain degree of movement and no more. Is there anyone who would not want to pay the â¬105 [benefit sought by teachers] immediately? However, the needs of the economy dictate that we act in a specific way, which was not imposed especially on teachers as an exception. The government has stated this outright," he said.
The spokesman also defended statements made by Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou concerning the evaluation of teachers:
"There is no Greek citizen that would not accept that evaluations are necessary, since they are linked to the quality of studies. This is an unavoidable necessity in a competitive world," he noted.
Meanwhile, a meeting has been scheduled on Tuesday between Yiannakou and the leadership of the two teachers' union federations OLME and DOE, which represent high-school teachers and primary school and kindergarten teachers, respectively.
Both unions federations have called a strike starting on Tuesday and ending on October 19. All schools throughout the country were closed on Friday and Monday, in order that they could be turned over for use as polling stations in the local government elections held on Sunday. Several may also be closed next Friday for the second round of elections.
OLME has sent out a letter to parents listing its demands and seeking their support, while stressing the "repercussions of the drastically low public spending on education, with 'grey-zone' schools without infrastructure of heating". They say that they are seeking an increase in the monthly pay so that they can "live on their salaries with dignity".
To back up their strike action, both unions are planning another rally on Wednesday in central Athens and other large cities throughout Greece.
High-school teachers have joined their colleagues in primary school, who on Tuesday embark on their fifth straight week of strike action, in demands for a rise in base pay for newly-appointed teachers to â¬1,400 net a month (up from â¬950 at present), full pension after 30 years of work and an increase in spending on education to 5 percent of GDP.
Primary school teachers are also striving to secure the immediate payment of a â¬105 benefit that the government has offered to pay in six increments spread over three years.
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