Socialists in Greece are defeated at the polls

Conservatives' victory signals political reshuffle

March 08, 2004|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

ATHENS, Greece - Greeks yesterday dumped the Socialist party that has ruled them for most of the past quarter-century, voting to bring in a conservative government just five months before the nation holds the Summer Olympics.

With 56 percent of votes counted, Costas Karamanlis and the New Democracy Party were beating the Socialists 47 percent to 41 percent as part of a deep reshuffling of Greece's political order, the Associated Press reported.

Late yesterday, the head of the governing Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, George Papandreou, conceded defeat as his opponents flooded the streets of Athens waving flags and blaring their car horns.

"I wish Mr. Karamanlis success in his work for the good of all of Greece," said Papandreou, scion of one of the country's political dynasties and son of the party's founder.

With that concession, an era came to an end: Papandreou's Socialist party, known by its initials PASOK, having reigned almost uninterrupted for 23 years, finally succumbed to allegations of corruption and inefficiency and a public desire for change.

Karamanlis, a U.S.-educated lawyer and another heir of the country's political elite, spoke to his supporters later yesterday, saying his win was a victory for democracy. He pledged to make a successful Olympics a priority.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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