NEWS

Date for elections still pending

A meeting between Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras late Tuesday did not lead to a date for the general elections being fixed as the ballot will depend on the interim government completing the legislative work it has taken on as part of Greece?s new rescue package from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

The two men met a few hours after it was confirmed that Greece had received the first, 7.5-billion-euro tranche of its new bailout. Papademos and Samaras did not make any comments after their meeting. New Democracy is known to favor April 29 as the election date but it is possible that the government will not have completed its task until a few days before Greek Orthodox Easter on April 15. This means the election may have to take place on May 6 or 13.

Concerned that his party is losing support to Independent Greeks, a new group formed by ND outcast Panos Kammenos, Samaras is considering welcoming back as many as seven ousted conservative deputies, sources said. MPs were due to vote later on Tuesday on Greece?s EU-IMF loan agreement and Samaras appeared ready to accept the return of any outcasts who would support the agreement in the parliamentary ballot.

Samaras is due to leave Wednesday for a trip to Madrid and Lisbon to meet the conservative prime ministers of Spain and Portugal with a view to creating an alliance that might be able to press for more measures to boost growth on a European level. Samaras is due to return to Greece on the evening of March 25.

In his first speech to PASOK MPs since taking over the leadership of the party, former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos suggested he was open to being part of a coalition government after the elections but nevertheless drew dividing lines between the Socialists, New Democracy and the leftist parties.

?Some people are asking for a self-sufficient government, we want a self-sufficient Greece,? Venizelos said in reference to Samaras?s suggestion that he wants a clear majority to avoid forming a coalition. In a bid to differentiate PASOK from its election rivals, Venizelos said the proposals by the left were ?unrealistic? and that ND was ?undecided,? beholden to its old-style party politics and the ?theory of political cost.?

Venizelos?s successor as finance minister is due to be named Wednesday. Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis and Interior Minister Tassos Yiannitsis are the favorites to take over.