Following intense media speculation over the unexpected departure of foreign inspectors from Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos sought to send messages of reassurance over the weekend, stressing that economic reforms are broadly on track and that early elections are out of the question despite mounting political discord.
Papandreou, addressing a conference marking the 37th anniversary of his Socialist party?s foundation by his father on Saturday, pledged that his government will extricate Greece from its debt crisis by 2013 when the next general elections are scheduled. ?Citizens will judge us in 2013,? the premier said. ?By then, we will have managed to extract Greece from the crisis and we will have completed many important reforms,? he said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos responded to frenzied press speculation about a rift between the government and auditors from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, insisting that reforms were being accelerated.
?There are the approved measures which now need to be implemented and several structural issues for which we need to show better results… and this is what we are doing,? Venizelos said in a statement. The minister said the government was determined to stick to its promises to lenders, not because the measures have been imposed by foreign creditors, but ?for the sake of our children.?
According to sources, one of the key bones of contention between the government and Greece?s foreign creditors in talks that broke down at the end of last week were calls by the auditors for additional measures to plug a revenue shortfall.
Sources told Kathimerini that the plan agreed between authorities and auditors foresaw the dismissal of 7,500 public sector employees – a move that is certain to prompt furious protests and that would cost the government dearly in political capital.
Already the ruling Socialists are losing popularity. Three opinion polls published in Sunday’s newspapers showed that the main conservative opposition New Democracy party had widened its lead by between 0.6 and 5.1 percentage points over PASOK.