NEWS

Government tries to maintain steady course

Snap elections are not an option that the government is considering, sources told Sunday?s Kathimerini, despite the growing realization that Greece may not achieve its goal of improving its emergency loan terms at the European Union leaders? summit on March 24 and 25.

An air of pessimism appears to have descended over the government as it looks like Athens will have a battle on its hands to convince its EU counterparts to agree to allowing Greece more time to pay back the 110 billion euros it is borrowing from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), let alone achieve a better interest rate and the right for the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to buy back Greek bonds from international lenders.

Government sources told Sunday?s Kathimerini that the seemingly bleak outlook would not lead to Prime Minister George Papandreou calling elections so he can win a fresh mandate. The possibility of a thorough Cabinet reshuffle, however, remains on the cards.

Two opinion polls published over the weekend indicate that support for PASOK is slipping. A Marc poll for Sunday?s Ethnos had the Socialists on 26.1 percent and New Democracy on 21.5. A survey by MRB for the Real News weekly indicated that 23.2 percent would vote for PASOK and 21.3 for ND.

The Conservatives have recently stepped up their public relations campaign, opening new headquarters, unveiling a new logo and making more public appearances. They have also attempted to turn up the heat on Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who has also intermittently come under fire from his fellow ministers and PASOK MPs.

ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis indicated on Friday that the Conservatives might call for a vote of no confidence in Papaconstantinou in Parliament. ?It is a weapon that New Democracy will use when it sees fit,? he said.

The head of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, suggested that the finance minister should be replaced. ?He is a nice guy and quite intelligent but he does not know his subject at all well,? he said.

There has been growing speculation that ND and LAOS are considering cooperating at the next general elections. After a period when the two parties were involved in constant slanging matches, the last few months have seen an informal truce, which has heightened rumors of them working together more closely.