Former Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, who was elected secretary of conservative New Democracy’s political committee on Thursday, faces the tough task of speaking for a party that is deeply divided over the harsh measures outlined in the government’s new austerity package. Kefaloyiannis garnered well over half of the party’s support, drawing 301 votes compared to 186 for his rival Nikitas Kaklamanis, a former health minister and ex-mayor of Athens who is a longtime critic of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
One source in the pro-Samaras camp told Kathimerini that there had been concerns about the outcome of the vote as several MPs from the populist arm of the party apparently viewed the election as an opportunity to express their opposition to the conservative-led government’s pro-austerity policy. “Tactics fueled by personal motives are unacceptable at a time when the future of the country is quite literally in the balance,” the source said.
It is unclear exactly what stance Kefaloyiannis will take on austerity as he has objected to tough economic policies in the past and was among 21 ND MPs expelled from the party in February after voting against a bill for the implementation of the terms corresponding to Greece’s second rescue package from its foreign creditors (also known as Memorandum Two). Furthermore, the former minister has been indirectly critical of Samaras in previous years, having supported the current premier’s longtime political rival Dora Bakoyannis when the two faced off in a race for the party leadership in 2009.