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Grad Elected Prime Minister of Greece

Grad Elected Prime Minister of GreeceCostas Karamanlis will become the youngest prime minister in modern Greek history, following a sweeping victory in Sunday’s general elections. Athens.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.08.04] On Sunday, Greece experienced a changing of the guard. Or as Costas Karamanlis, the country's newly-elected prime minister, describes it: "a changing of the generations." In a sweeping win, the 47-year-old Fletcher School graduate returned his New Democracy party to power and became the youngest person elected a prime minister in modern Greek history.

"Thousands of supporters of the conservative New Democracy party joined frenetic street parties in Athens into the early hours Monday, waving blue party banners and dancing outside parliament to celebrate Sunday's win," reported the Associated Press. "A blitz of cell phone text messages featuring the New Democracy emblem said ‘We're coming!'"

Securing more than 45 percent of the vote, Karamanlis led his party - which was founded by his uncle in the mid-1970s - to power for the first time in more than a decade, ending more than 10 years of socialist rule.

"We start work tomorrow," Karamanlis told thousands of cheering supporters on hand for his victory speech and celebration.

There is a great sense of urgency among Greece's newly-elected leaders - driven in large part by the quickly-approaching Olympic Games, which are slated to begin in Athens in just a few months.

A lot is at stake. "The conservatives face huge tasks: completing the badly delayed projects for the August 13-29 Olympics and making sure the $800 million security network keeps pace with possible threats," reported CNN.

But Karamanlis - who met with the top organizers of the Athens Olympics within hours of winning the general election - says he is ready for the challenge.

"We must make the best efforts so the Olympics Games are the best and safest ever held," he told the London Guardian. "It is a great opportunity for Greece to show its modern face."

But the Games represent just one of the new prime minister's top agenda items.

"Karamanlis has promised smaller government, less bureaucracy and fewer taxes to fuel growth and cut an unemployment rate of about nine percent," reported the Associated Press. "He has also pledged more funds for social welfare, education and health."

The Tufts graduate also plans to strengthen Greece's role in the international community.

"[I will make] many changes in domestic and foreign policy and open up the country to make it more attractive to foreign investors," Karamanlis told Reuters. "The world will see a country in Europe which will follow a policy directed at attracting foreign investment and privatizing big public enterprises."

While he hasn't held office before, analysts agree that Karamanlis brings a lot of experience to his new post.

"He has not been tested in public office, but he more than made up for that by being the head of the New Democracy party for seven years in opposition," said London Times reporter John Carr.

During that time, the Fletcher School graduate quickly rose the ranks to establish himself as a major figure in Greece.

"When he took over the party his uncle founded, some sniffed disparagingly that it was a clear case of nepotism," reported the Toronto Star. "Defying critics eight years later, he has emerged from the shadows to bring his party back to power with a clear mandate for the first time in a quarter of a century."

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