NEWS

Interim PM to be given more time in office?

One of the few Cabinet members personally chosen by interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, Minister of State Giorgos Stavropoulos, fuelled speculation yesterday that the premier?s administration will remain in power for longer than previously thought.

Speaking to Skai radio, Stavropoulos said the interim government would have to fulfill a certain mission, including negotiating a new bailout with its lenders and a haircut with its bondholders, before elections could be held. Negotiations for both of these goals are nowhere near being concluded.

?Everything that has to happen cannot be tied to a specific date,? he said. ?If you look at it objectively, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific date. As a government, we have taken on a task that has to be achieved in the best possible way.?

When New Democracy, PASOK and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) agreed to enter into a coalition, it was proposed that the transitional administration remain in power until February 19, but the slow pace of negotiations with the eurozone, the International Monetary Fund and investors holding Greek bonds means it is unlikely that Papademos will be able to keep to this timetable.

Sources said that PASOK leader George Papandreou indicated to Papademos — when the pair met last week — that he would be willing to lend his support to an extension of the interim government?s time in office. In some ways, this would suit PASOK as it begins to embark on a leadership contest. LAOS leader Giorgos Karatzaferis has also indicated he would accept Papademos extending his stay.

However, it is not clear whether ND chief Antonis Samaras, who has insisted that elections should take place in February, would support any major change to the agreed timetable.