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New Athens mayor pledges revamp of crisis-hit capital

By AFP - Aug 25,2019 - Last updated at Aug 25,2019

Kostas Bakoyannis chose to take his oath of office in the run-down district of Akadimia Platono (AFP photo)

ATHENS — Newly-elected Athens mayor Costas Bakoyannis, scion of one of Greece’s most powerful political families, takes the oath of office on Sunday after vowing to revitalise the battered capital.

The new mayor will officially take over his duties on September 1 in a city where the damage of a decade-long crisis is still evident: Abandoned or dilapidated buildings, shuttered shops, broken sidewalks, and pockets where drugs and prostitution thrive.

“Today Athens is not just changing mayors. It is entering a new era with a different way of operating, a new outlook and philosophy,” the lanky 41-year-old said after his victory on June 2.

“The city is yours... only together, from the bottom up, can we raise the city high,” the six-footer said, succeeding his mother Dora Bakoyannis, the first female mayor of Athens.

Bakoyannis chose to take his oath of office in the run-down district of Akadimia Platonos, which was once the site of Plato’s Academy.

A month after his election as mayor, Bakoyannis’ uncle Kyriakos Mitsotakis was elected prime minister with the conservative New Democracy Party.

A decade apart in age, uncle and nephew have made Greek political history by simultaneously holding two of the country’s leading political posts.

They have also stepped into posts formerly occupied by their respective parents, under the colours of a party where the Mitsotakis family has been a force for decades.

Like his uncle, Bakoyannis is big on public safety, seeking to capitalise on the previous leftist government’s perceived inaction against anarchist vandalism and lawlessness.

After vandals smeared paint on one of his electoral kiosks ahead of the first municipal electoral round on May 26, Bakoyannis let loose.

“They should cross themselves, if they believe in God, that I don’t become mayor,” he said.


‘Safety, cleanliness, lighting’ 


Bakoyannis has promised to focus on the “obvious” — “Safety, cleanliness, lighting”.

Among his pledges is a 54.4-million-euro ($60-million) promenade connecting some of the capital’s main landmarks, and building playgrounds and cycling routes.

The incoming mayor was just 11 years old when his father Pavlos Bakoyannis, a lawmaker with New Democracy, was gunned down in 1989 by the far-left November 17 organisation.

Bakoyannis has said it “drove him nuts” that the previous administration of Alexis Tsipras had repeatedly granted prison leave to his father’s killer Dimitris Koufodinas. 

The Harvard-educated Bakoyannis was first elected mayor of the small mountainous town of Karpenissi in 2010 at the age of 33.

He had previously served as special adviser to his mother when she was foreign minister from 2006 to 2009.

As mayor of Karpenissi he is credited with bringing additional tourism to the area.

In 2014 he was elected to the post of regional governor for central Greece.

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