NEWS

Troika returns, elections loom

EC, ECB and IMF to look at measures for 2013/14 as political uncertainty over upcoming polls remains

A technical team comprising officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- collectively known as the troika -- is due in Athens on Monday to begin discussing the next round of spending that will have to be implemented by the new Greek government, whose composition still remains uncertain with just over a month to go until elections.

The troika officials are due to assess what measures Greece could take in 2013 and 2014 to save more than 11 billion euros to stay on track with the fiscal targets set by its lenders. The measures are expected to focus on spending cuts rather than revenue raising.

It is also expected that the troika will examine the bill for the liberalization of the taxi sector, as well as other reforms that the current interim government has promised to implement before calling elections.

Considerable attention is being paid to political developments in Greece as polls loom on April 29 or May 6. The tense atmosphere ahead of the elections was highlighted by the protests against austerity measures and the country?s politicians at the parades held on Sunday to mark Independence Day. Police arrested three people and detained another 27 during minor flash points in Athens. There were also disturbances at events outside the capital. Riot police used pepper spray in Patra, 32 people were detained in Veria, 47 were taken into custody in Thessaloniki, the parade in Iraklio was canceled and there were skirmishes in numerous other cities. Politicians avoided attending many of the events.

Three opinion polls published in recent days showed New Democracy in the lead. Kapa Research?s survey for Vima newspaper had the conservatives on 18.1 percent, the MRB poll for Real News on 20.3 percent and MARC?s survey for Ethnos on 17.8 percent. PASOK was second in all the polls but the low levels of support for both parties suggests it is not a given they will receive enough support to form a coalition government.

Sources told Kathimerini that PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos is open to the idea of a coalition but will insist on a non-partisan figure being appointed prime minister if there is not a considerable difference in the votes cast for the two parties. In such an eventuality, it would be likely that current Prime Minister Lucas Papademos would be asked to remain in place.

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