NEWS

ND takes more offensive stance

New Democracy, which joined the interim government led by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos despite serious reservations, appears to have begun distancing itself from the administration, partly with a view to the snap elections planned for next year.

A number of ND officials spoke out Tuesday against the tax hikes, the labor reserve scheme for public sector workers and any suggestion that elections would not be held on February 19, as the conservatives had demanded when they agreed to join the tripartite administration.

ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis also revived the longstanding proposal by party leader Antonis Samaras to ?renegotiate? the terms of Greece?s loan agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Samaras had refrained from using the word ?renegotiation? in recent public comments but Michelakis said the ND leader made it clear in the written commitment he sent to Greece?s lenders that there should be a change of policies.

?Not only does the request for renegotiation exist but it was formally put on the table from the moment that the IMF accepted the letter sent by the New Democracy leader, which refers to changes being made,? said Michelakis, who went on to say that there was no basis at the moment for elections not being held on February 19.

?At the moment, there is no delay in the negotiations for the private sector involvement [in Greece?s next bailout] that would justify talk of moving the elections to a more suitable date,? he said.

Later, Michelakis attacked the labor reserve scheme as ?unethical, unfair and essentially illegal.? Sources said that ND would try to renew its attack on PASOK?s handling of the crisis over the past two years. Other ND members, such as Maximos Charakopoulos and Costas Tzavaras were also critical Tuesday of the policies adopted by PASOK.

Sources said that although opinion polls show roughly three in four ND voters believe Samaras was right to join the interim government and send his letter to Greece?s lenders, party officials fear alienating grassroots support and creating the impression among the wider public that a coalition between PASOK and New Democracy would be viable.

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