NEWS

As ND and PASOK squabble, May 6 emerges as most likely poll date

The date for Greece?s parliamentary elections is to be decided later this week but it looks increasingly likely that the country will go to the polls on May 6 rather than April 29 to allow the interim government enough time to pass the reform legislation demanded by its lenders.

Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis suggested on Monday that April 29 or May 6 were much more likely dates for the election than May 13 but sources have suggested that time has almost run out for the polls to be fixed for next month. At least 25 days have to pass between the elections being announced and the polls being held, which means that Parliament would have to wind up its work by April 3. Government sources said that it is unlikely the legislative work would be completed by then.

If elections are held on May 6, MPs would be able to sit during the beginning of Holy Week before Parliament is dissolved on April 10. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos has informed the ministers from his party that this is the most likely schedule, sources added.

Venizelos met several top PASOK officials on Monday to discuss the party?s election strategy. PASOK?s political council is due to meet on Tuesday.

Relations with its probable future coalition partner, New Democracy, appeared to take another turn for the worse on Monday, when the conservatives refused to return to negotiations over Greece?s new tax system. ND had objected to Finance Ministry plans to tax illegally altered parts of homes for which owners had paid a fine. Deputy Finance Minister Pantelis Economou said on Monday that the proposal was being withdrawn but ND showed no willingness to resume talks on the tax bill, which has to be finalized by this summer. The conservatives are unhappy that the ministry, run by PASOK officials, has not taken on board any of their tax suggestions.

The two parties also clashed on Monday over hirings in the public sector. ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis accused Venizelos, previously finance minister, of being among those who approved on March 12 the hiring of 2,340 post office (ELTA) staff on eight-month contracts and contravening the limit of one hire for every five civil servants that leave, as set out by Greece?s lenders. PASOK responded by pointing out to Michelakis that the hirings are made every year to cover seasonal work at ELTA and had been requested this month by Transport and Infrastructure Minister Makis Voridis, now a New Democracy member.