Both the governing conservative party and the opposition Socialists led by former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou claimed victory Monday at the end of the second and last round of local elections, while the Communists conceded considerable losses. Though the conservative New Democracy Party won Greece's second largest city, Salonika, following its victory a week earlier in Athens, candidates backed by the Socialists won a majority of the lesser municipalities in elections that were regarded as something of a referendum on the government's economic policy.
For the first time since the end of World War II, the Communists saw a considerable decline in their strength at the local government level.
Final results in the elections, held on two consecutive weekends, showed that 136 of the 359 major municipalities went to mayors of the conservative party, while 113 were won by mayors supported jointly by the Socialists and the Communists. Eighty-four were won by Socialists running alone, and 16 by Communists. Ten mayors were elected as independents.
In Salonika, Mayor Dinos Cosmopoulos, backed by the government, was re-elected with 50.9 percent of the popular vote, compared with 49.1 percent for Dimitris Fatouros, who was supported by the Socialists and the Communists.
The local elections were the first major test for the government, which came to power six months ago with a single-seat majority. Since then, it has imposed economic austerity measures and sharply cut public spending as part of an effort to meet European Community demands that the country's economy be put in shape in time for market integration in 1992. Measures such as steep price increases and pay freezes, have provoked several general strikes.
The Socialists and the Communists sought to use the elections to demonstrate public discontent with the government and to force it into new general elections.
The government said the attempt failed. Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis said the results were a pleasant surprise and confirmed "popular approval of the government's difficult economic task."