Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2004

Profile: Costas Karamanlis

Costas Karamanlis, who has led the conservative New Democracy (ND) party to electoral victory in Greece, will not have to look far if he wants advice in his new job as prime minister.

His family is one of the two most powerful political dynasties in the country and his uncle, Constantine Karamanlis, is a towering figure of modern Greek history.

Costas Karamanlis with his wife Natassa
Costas Karamanlis has turned his party into a strong challenger for the socialists

Constantine was prime minister from 1955 to 1963 and 1974 to 1980. Between the late 60s and early 1970s, he went into self-imposed exile in Paris after a military junta took power in Greece.

He returned amid high drama to restore Greek democracy and established the New Democracy Party as a moderate umbrella organisation of right-of-centre groups.

While his uncle, a schoolmaster's son, was known to have an austere personality, the 47-year-old Costas has been depicted as a more easy-going, affable figure, with a love of football. He was educated in the US and Athens.

Transforming party

He rose through the party ranks from his student days in the 1980s and emerged as the last-minute surprise winner during a leadership challenge following the party's 1996 election defeat. He became the country's youngest political leader in living memory.

Constantine was prime minister from 1955 to 1963 and 1974 to 1980
Constantine Karamanlis became a towering figure of modern Greek history

Many saw the move as a clear case of nepotism. But, in the eight years as party leader, the lawyer has secured a grip on the notoriously undisciplined party and provided incumbent prime minister Costas Simitis's socialists with some of the toughest opposition they have faced since the 1980s.

Mr Karamanlis is credited with transforming several of the party's dated conservative ideas into more attractive and contemporary proposals. The party lost the 2000 election by a whisker and at the time observers commentated that he could do it next time around.

He has never held an elected office in the past, a point that critics have focused on to paint him as lacking political experience.

He has promised to do away with public sector corruption and improve services and education.

In the foreign policy arena, Mr Karamanlis acknowledges a debt to his uncle, a committed European who led Greece into the then European Economic Community in 1979. The ND leader supports deeper European integration.

Mr Karamalis is married to Natassa, who is active in a number of charities. She is credited with helping her husband foster a socially compassionate image and has made many appearances by his side since their well-publicised marriage in 1998 and the birth of their twins in 2003.

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