NEWS

First hints at broader coalition

PASOK?s Venizelos suggests third party apart from ND may be needed to form govt after May 6 polls

As the leaders of Greece?s two main parties shifted their attention to reform of the country?s political system Wednesday, PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos said there would be a ?huge problem? if the next government -- most likely to be a coalition -- does not have at least 50 percent of the vote following next month?s elections.

Speaking to the Newsit website, Venizelos said three parties may need to join forces in a coalition government after the May 6 polls. Last week?s Public Issue survey indicated that PASOK and New Democracy would get a combined share of the vote totaling 35.5 percent, which could be enough for a slim parliamentary majority.

While the option of PASOK and ND cooperating after the elections seems most likely, the two parties face great difficulty in improving their fortunes in the last few days of the campaign to the extent that they could claim 50 percent or more of votes cast. However, a possible third coalition partner has not been forthcoming.

The Democratic Left and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) have both demurred but also indicated that cooperation might be possible under some conditions. Dora Bakoyannis, leader of the liberal Democratic Alliance, took a similar line Wednesday although her party may not get enough support to enter Parliament. ?We will cooperate under certain terms,? Bakoyannis told supporters in Iraklio.

Venizelos focused Wednesday on presenting his plans for political reform, which included each party putting forward one candidate for each constituency rather than a list of them. He also proposed a cut in state funding for parties and the reduction of the number of ministries to 14. Venizelos said that PASOK MPs would give up their right to immunity from prosecution.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is due to return to Zappeio Hall Thursday for the second time in four days to present his proposals for changes to the political system as well as issues such as health, education and security. ND sources said Samaras will attempt to set out a vision for Greece. This is likely to include an effort to ?remove taboos? around the idea of God and the homeland. Samaras spoke about these two concepts in Thessaloniki Wednesday, saying that ?homeland should not be a forbidden word? and that ?in the foxholes, there are no atheists.? Samaras has yet to take up Venizelos?s challenge for a head-to-head debate.

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