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The men who would take Athens

The five top candidates in the race for the capital's top job profiled

Three days before the first-round election on Sunday, EnetEnglish profiles the top five contenders for the post of Athens mayor: Giorgos Kaminis, Aris Spiliotopoulos, Gabriel Sakellaridis, Nikitas Kaklamanis and Ilias Kasidiaris

Athens City Hall (File photo) Athens City Hall (File photo) The Athens mayoralty – along with the Attica prefecture – is the big prize in Sunday's nationwide municipal elections, as it is considered a key battle ground in the fight between ruling New Democracy and main opposition Syriza, but also a test of the support for the country's centre-left political forces, which are mainly represented by incumbent Giorgos Kaminis, who is running for re-election without any official party support.

For Syriza, which tapped the young, little known economist Gavriil (or Gabriel) Sakellaridis to run as its candidate, one of the greatest advantages is the split in the conservative vote, as ruling New Democracy MP and former mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis is running as a renegade against party candidate Aris Spiliotopoulos.

For extreme right Golden Dawn, which is running parliamentary representative and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris as its candidate, the contest is the crucial first test of the party's electoral strength after its prosecution as a criminal organisation was launched last autumn.

Three days before the first-round election on Sunday, EnetEnglish profiles the top five contenders.

Giorgos Kaminis

Giorgos Kaminis Giorgos Kaminis Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis is running on his record and is considered the favourite in most opinion polls.

A mild-mannered centre-leftist who made his name as the country's second ombudsman, Kaminis won the 2010 electoral contest against incumbent Nikitas Kaklamanis, mainly with the backing of George Papandreou's Pasok party.

He has been an ardent defender of human rights and migrants' rights, and has taken an especially fierce stance against Golden Dawn.

Kaminis maintains that he took over a city that was on the verge of collapse and managed to make significant improvement in citizens' daily lives.

He especially stresses the city's social welfare programmes in the last four years of the economic crisis, pointing to services such as the distribution of 20,000 meals a day to Athens' growing army of nouveau poor.

Kaminis boasts that he has secured €120m in funding for 72 public projects in the city of Athens from EU cohesion funds. The funds, he says, went toward solidarity for the poor, combating the effects of unemployment, and remodelling public spaces.

A key point in the mayor's campaign is that the city has had fiscal surpluses for the last three years, whereas there were deep deficits under his predecessors. Priding himself in achieving fiscal transparency, he underlines that Athens is Greece's only city where the budget is posted on the internet and is updated daily.

Kaminis claims that despite severe personnel cuts, he has managed to use technological tools and ideas from other capitals to maximise civil servants' productivity.

Website: giorgoskaminis.gr
Facebook: facebook.com/GiorgosKaminis
Twitter: @KaminisG

Aris Spiliotopoulos

Aris Spiliotopoulos (Photo: Reuters) Aris Spiliotopoulos (Photo: Reuters) Backed by ruling New Democracy, Spiliotopoulos' main obstacle to rallying centre-right base is the renegade candidacy of ND deputy Nikitas Kaklamanis, the former Athens mayor.

Unlike Kaklamanis, he resigned his parliamentary seat to run for Athens Mayor, in an effort to prove that he does not view the mayoralty as a political stepping stone, as many ND mayors did in the past. He says he has "suspended" his party affiliation to run for mayor, implying that he will not be beholden to his party.

His campaign grouping is called Athina Boreis (Athens, you can do it).

Spiliotopoulos was considered a communications whiz kid when he served as ND party spokesman under then main opposition leader Kostas Karamanlis. up until the 2000 general elections, when ND lost by a hair's breadth. Much later, he served as minister of tourism and then of education in the Karamanlis government.

He is running on a platform that claims that Kaminis' mayoralty has been a disaster, from the lack of adequate lighting in many areas of the city, to the problem of garbage collection and the sale of contraband merchandise by street vendors in the city centre.

Spiliotopoulos says that most of what was accomplished on Kaminis' watch, such as budget surpluses,was not the mayor's personal achievement, but rather the result of the national bailout memorandums which the ruling parties approved at great political cost.

He says he opposes any further city layoffs due to memorandum policies and that any budget cutbacks will be to non-essential services.

In an apparent bid to win the far right vote of Golden Dawn candidate Ilias Kasidiaris, Spiliotopoulos recently expressed his opposition to the creation of a mosque in Votanikos. Though the location was approved by the conservative-led government, he says he did not vote for the plan.

Website: athinamporeis.gr
Facebook: facebook.com/aris.spiliotopoulos
Twitter: @aris_spiliotop

Gabriel Sakellaridis

Gabriel Sakellaridis Gabriel Sakellaridis The 33-year-old economist, who has served on the party's economic planning team, was handpicked by Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, who himself was one of the youngest Athens mayoral candidates ever when he clinched over 10% of the vote in the 2006 .

Soft-spoken but firm, he has been able to hold his own in televised interviews where he is often attacked for Syriza policies, from the party's position on undocumented migrants to the policing of the city centre and the prosecution of street vendors of contraband goods. Regarding illegal street trade, he argues that the problem must be addressed at its root – the entry of contraband products which remain unchecked by customs at Greek ports.

He maintains that the police presence in central Athens is far too high, and that officers should be transferred to neighbourhood beats, though that is not under the mayor's purview, but is rather decided by the competent public order ministry.

He has also taken a liberal stance on the occupation of abandoned buildings in the city centre, noting that such buildings can, with planning and organisation, become centres of neighbourhood civic and cultural activities.

Sakellaridis has charged that incumbent Kaminis has limited accomplishment to show during his tenure, and that the mayor has been the pliant handmaiden of the government, faithfully enforcing the bailout memorandum's austerity policies in the city.

He charges that billions of euros have been spent in the past for showcase municipal projects that did nothing to improve the quality of life, such as the remodelling of Omonia Square with tonnes of cement.

He insists that emphasis must be placed on improving the quality of life in the outlying inner city neighbourhoods.

Sakellaridis insists that the Athens mayoral election is not only about improving life in the city, but also about sending a strong anti-memorandum message to the government and Greece's creditors.

Syriza insists that the upcoming elections will spell the beginning of the end of the government.

Sakellaridis says he will try and channel more funds for the handling of the city's growing poverty and the resulting humanitarian crisis.

He also strongly supports the coordination of neighbourhood civic organisations and movements, so that citizens can take many matters pertaining to quality of life into their own hands.

Website: anoihtipoli.gr
Facebook: facebook.com/gabrielathens
Twitter: @gabriel_athens

Nikitas Kaklamanis Nikitas Kaklamanis Nikitas Kaklamanis

The former Athens mayor who was long a New Democracy minister and once a close friend and ally of Premier Antonis Samaras is seeking a return to City Hall, but this time as a renegade candidate, against his party's wishes.

Samaras personally expelled Kaklamanis from New Democracy after the MP failed to vote for the last major bailout bill, in March.

Though Kaklamanis had voted for previous bailout bills, he bemoaned the disastrous effects of the last bill on various social groups.

Critics say his vote on the bill was an attempt to distance himself from the government's austerity policies, with a view to garnering votes in the municipal elections.

Kaklamanis is running on his record (he got 43% of the vote in 2010) and he rejects Kaminis' older charges that his administration was marked by a lack of transparency and fiscal discipline.

Kaklamanis claims that the municipal surpluses of which Kaminis boasts are the result of the retirement of 2,500 municipal employees in the last years.

Like other contenders, he promises to try to address poverty problems faced by the poor due to austerity and economic depression. A medical doctor by profession, he says he will try to develop primary health care centres where Athenians can at least receive screening for life threatening diseases such as cancer, with services such as Pap tests and mammograms., lung x-rays and PSA colon cancer tests, for the unemployed and uninsured.

He supports the building of a new airport, which would be much less expensive than the prohibitive Athens International Airport, through a public-private partnership (with Athens co-investing, possibly with loans) so as to increase the volume of tourism.

Kaklamanis supports the ongoing privatisation of over 150 city-owned buildings, including the refugee tenements of Alexandras Avenue, which he says will revitalise the city with the creation of new residences and businesses. He says the privatisations must be guided by a longterm development plan.

On the issue of the rising number of undocumented migrants in Athens, he says that this a state policy issue. But he supports the abolition of the Dublin II agreement (which makes the EU country of entry responsible for migrants) and forcing Turkey to take back migrants that have come from its shores or borders. He says migrants who remain in Greece should be spread throughout the country.

As for the poverty stricken, he advocates that the city buy, with about €2m of EU cohesion funding, about 100 low-cost apartments that can be used to house people who have lost their homes.

He said that as mayor in 2010, he turned a Patision Street building bequeathed to the city into a hostel for the poor.

He also boasts that 17 new parks of 10 hectares total were created during his mayoralty.

Website: athina-poli-zois.gr
Facebook: facebook.com/nikitaskaklamanis
Twitter: @NKaklamanis

Ilias Kasidiaris

Ilias Kasidiaris Ilias Kasidiaris Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris is the man that all other parties want to keep out of the second round of the municipal elections, as they shudder at the though of a neonazi coming a breath away from the mayoralty. The party's website does not provide details of their programme for the Athens municipality, and the candidate has been effectively barred from most broadcast media outlets.

He is one of the most hardcore organisers of the party's paramilitary operations and a likely successor to leader Nikos Michaloliakos if his party survives ongoing prosecution.

He became infamous after slapping in the face Communist Party MP Liana Kanelli on live television, and is also known for the swastika tattoo on his arm (which he dismisses as an ancient Greek symbol).

In March 2013, Kasidiaris was acquitted by an Athens court – due to doubts about his role – of charges of having had a role in the 2007 stabbing of a professor and the robbery of his state ID card by a gang of five unknown assailants. They used a get away car that belonged to Kasidiaris.

In September 2013, Kasidiaris was arrested and then released conditionally, in the context of an ongoing judicial case accusing Golden Dawn of being a criminal organisation.

The contest is crucial for Golden Dawn, which seeks to show that there is a public backlash against the party MPs' prosecution. Michaloliakos 2010 election to Athens municipal council was the first time a party member was elected to public office.

Athens has been one of the main staging areas for Golden Dawn attacks against migrants, though most of these have gone unprosecuted. In areas with a high concentration of migrants, the party supporters strong presence has served to terrorise migrants. Often the Golden Dawn supporters portray the defenders of the elderly in downtrodden areas, while many charge that the party runs protection rackets and even prostitution rings in innercity neighbourhoods.

Twitter: @IliasKasidiaris 

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