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Page last updated at 09:40 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2004

Greek socialists swept from power

New Democracy supporters in Athens
The conservatives were out of office for more than a decade

Greece's conservative party has swept to power in the general election, ousting the socialists after more than a decade in power.

With most of the votes counted, Costas Karamanlis' New Democracy had won about 45.4% against 40.6% for George Papandreou's Pasok.

Mr Karamanlis acted immediately to try to dispel fears that the 2004 Athens Olympics would not be ready by August.

"The Olympic Games will be the best and safest," Mr Karamanlis said.

It is a new start for all Greeks
Costas Karamanlis

"Greece will show its modern face."

Even before making his victory speech, he met the chief organiser of the Athens Olympics, Gianna Angelopoulos, to discuss strategy to get stalled projects ready for August.

A number of key construction projects remain unfinished, and are now under enormous time pressure as the start of the games approaches.

Mr Karamanlis also hailed the Greek decision to throw out the socialists.

"It is a new start for all Greeks," he said in his first televised speech as prime minister-elect.

'Vote for change'

Mr Karamanlis has begun putting together a new government, which he said would be announced on Tuesday and sworn in on Wednesday.

Mr Papandreou conceded defeat soon after voting ended when exit polls showed New Democracy with a five-point lead.

ELECTION FACTS
A woman votes in the Greek elections
Voting in Greece is compulsory
Pasok in office since 1981 apart from 1990-1993 when New Democracy was in power
Mr Papandreou and Mr Karamanlis are members of the two dynasties which have dominated Greece since the 1950s

"New Democracy has won the elections. I wish Karamanlis success in his work for the good of Greece," he said.

Pasok had been in power almost continuously since 1981.

Provisional estimates say New Democracy will end up with 170 of parliament's 300 seats.

Difficulties may arise next year when the Greek parliament is due to elect a new president. If the conservatives fail to persuade 180 MPs to accept their candidate, there will have to be new elections.

Another pressing task for New Democracy is to see through negotiations aimed at reuniting Cyprus before it joins the European Union in May.

"We will all together, united, give the great battle to safeguard a just, functional and European solution to the political problem of Cyprus," Mr Karamanlis said on Sunday.

Priorities

Revellers celebrating the conservatives' victory on the streets of Athens said a change at the top had been long overdue.

Costas Karamanlis on election day
Costas Karamanlis will be Greece's youngest-ever premier

"We had that regime for 20 years," one told the BBC.

"No matter if they were good or bad, they had to change... and I think that the attitude towards the people will change."

Our correspondent reports that the new prime minister is offering a more northern European-style administration.

He said his priorities would be education for the new generation, more jobs and reform of agriculture, and he promised what he called a human, inclusive state for all citizens.

The man tipped to become the new finance minister, George Alogoskoufis, has said that New Democracy has been given a clear mandate for economic reform "to make Greece more competitive".

Mr Alogoskoufis has previously called for tax cuts, investment incentives and market deregulation.

He recently listed his priorities for development as agriculture, tourism, shipping, energy production, transportation and telecoms.



video and audio news
The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Costas Karamanlis will be the country's youngest ever prime minister"



SEE ALSO
Analysis: New era for Greek politics
08 Mar 04 |  Europe
'Shock and awe' in Greek media
08 Mar 04 |  Europe
Old hands embrace modern Greece
06 Mar 04 |  Europe
Neck-and-neck race in Greek vote
05 Mar 04 |  Europe
Profile: George Papandreou
05 Oct 09 |  Europe
Country profile: Greece
29 Feb 04 |  Country profiles

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