Greek opposition party holds elections for new leader

Athens, Dec 20 (IANS) Greece’s main opposition, the conservative New Democracy (ND) party held first round of elections to pick a new leader on Sunday.

Party members gathered at about 900 polling centres nationwide to cast their votes throughout the day, with party officials noting that the process was running without major problems, Xinhua news agency reported.

Last month, the elections were postponed due to severe technical glitches that increased tensions within the four candidates.

Vangelis Meimarakis, a veteran party heavyweight who served as interim leader from July to November, was leading the race, according to opinion polls.

Meimarakis, a former parliament speaker and defence minister, took over as transitional party chairman after former premier Antonis Samaras’ resignation from the party leadership in July following the referendum on Greece’s new bailout agreement with international lenders.

Meimarakis handed the interim leadership to deputy chairman Yanis Plakiotakis after the failure to hold the party elections on November 22.

If elected the conservatives might consider joining a ruling coalition with the Left to avoid new snap elections in case of a government crisis, they said.

Among the other contenders were former administrative reform minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas.

One of them will most likely pass to the second round of elections on January 10, 2016, as none of the candidates was expected to win the 50 percent of votes needed for the election of party leader from the first round.

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