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Greek PM Karamanlis Wins Re-Election

Greek PM Karamanlis Wins Re-ElectionTufts graduate vows to press ahead with economic reforms as he recovers from recent political challenges.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.21.07] Despite criticism of his government's handling of recent scandals, Greek Prime Minister and Fletcher School graduate Kostas Karamanlis won re-election earlier this week, vowing to enact a series of reforms designed to maintain the economic prosperity that Greece has enjoyed under his centrist leadership.

The 51-year-old Karamanlis (F'82) and his conservative New Democracy party won 41.8 percent of the vote in an election that he called six months ahead of schedule. He is the first conservative prime minister to win re-election in Greece since 1977, according to the BBC.

The Associated Press reported that the Greek economy has prospered under Karamanlis' leadership, with consumer spending and the property market improving and unemployment declining. According to Agence France Presse, Greece's budget deficit dropped to 2.6 percent of GDP last year, down from 7.9 percent in 2004.

A pension fund scandal and a series of deadly forest fires had raised concerns by some voters, but Karamanlis has promised to reform the pension system and pay for the fire damage.

"We owe it to all Greeks, whatever they voted, to move ahead quickly, with determination and take the country forward," he told reporters after receiving a mandate from President Karolos Papoulias to form a new government.

Karamanlis' plans for his new four-year term include continued economic reforms, an overhaul of the pension system, educational changes and privatizations.

"You have given a clear mandate to New Democracy to continue the changes and reforms which the country needs," Karamanlis said in a televised address. "I asked you to vote for a stable government. This government exists today."

His conservative New Democracy party lost some ground in the elections, handing Karamanlis a slimmer majority in Parliament.

"The small majority complicates things, but it's positive that the government won't have to rely on smaller parties," Theodor Schonebeck, an economist at Deutsche Bank, told Reuters.

When first elected in 2004, Karamanlis was the youngest prime minister in Greek history. He had taken over the New Democracy party, founded by his late uncle and former Greek leader Constantine Karamanlis, in 1997.

Alexis Papachelas, editor of the conservative daily Kathimerini, called Karamanlis the "Teflon prime minister," according to the Associated Press. A European diplomat told Agence France Presse that Karamanlis' non-confrontational, moderate style makes the Tufts graduate stand out. According to Papchelas, "Karamanlis is a somewhat atypical character on Greece's political scene."

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