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Greek Conservatives Secure Landslide Victory in Parliamentary Elections - 2004-03-07

Greece's conservative opposition secured a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, ending more than a decade of Socialist rule the country. With supporters pouring onto the streets across the country, Greece's conservative New Democracy party won a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Exit polls estimated the conservatives secured about 45 percent of the vote, ahead of the ruling Pasok Socialist party, which attracted about 40 percent of the vote. New Democracy was also poised to take an overwhelming majority in the 300 seat parliament.

Now that the voting and a bitterly fought, month long, campaign is over, New Democracy, and leader Costas Karamanlis, will have to get straight to work.

Though the Greek electorate was clearly in a mood to party Sunday night, the 47-year-old Karamanlis and his new government face a mammoth task from Monday morning to tackle key issues, including the reunification of Cyprus and preparations for this summer's Olympic Games.

Fewer than half the venues for the Athens Olympiad have been completed, and there are fears that a change of government could further delay preparations already well behind schedule.

Meanwhile, Mr. Karamanlis, who has never held an elected office before, will be immediately thrust into one of the world's most enduring diplomatic conflicts, as U.N.-brokered negotiations to reunite Cyprus falter.

U.N. envoy to the island Alvara de Soto has called on Greece and Turkey to step in to resolve problems in the latest peace plan, and some worry that Mr. Karamanlis may not have the experience to tackle such a complex dispute.

Meanwhile, the margin of the defeat is a decisive indictment of Pasok, accused of arrogance and cronyism after three successive election victories.

For Pasok leader, George Papandreou, it also marks the end of an attempt to emulate his father and grandfather, by becoming Greek prime minister.