PM upbeat as elections approach

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos sought to strike a positive note during an official visit to Cyprus Friday, noting that he expected Greece to return to growth in the second half of 2013 and confirming that plans to recapitalize cash-strapped Greek banks would be announced by April 20.

With speculation raging about the possibility of elections being delayed, as the government still has a raft of legislation to push through Parliament by the middle of next week, sources in the premier?s office told Kathimerini that Papademos was still set on snap polls on May 6.

Interior Minister Tassos Yiannitsis was more flexible, telling Parliament that elections would ?probably? be held on May 6 and if not would be ?a little bit later.?

If the country is to go to elections on May 6, Papademos must visit President Karolos Papoulias to ask for the dissolution of Parliament by Wednesday. For this to happen, the government must approve another two bills in accordance with commitments to the country?s foreign creditors — legislation from the Interior and Labor ministries containing provisions relating to local authorities and social insurance respectively.

The two bills are expected to be approved by the government — as the coalition of socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy still retains a majority in the 300-seat House — but there are fears of a delay that might be caused if opposition parties ask for votes on some of the provisions in the bill to be conducted by roll call.

If all the legislation has not been approved by Wednesday, the election date will move to May 13.

In his speech to the Cypriot Parliament in Nicosia, Papademos steered clear of the topic of Greek elections but declared that Athens has achieved ?significant results? in its continuing reform drive, noting that his interim government was continuing to ?navigate the Greek economy to calmer waters.?

Papademos also reaffirmed the support of Athens for Nicosia and for the successful completion of United Nations-mediated talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus. The premier indicated that the onus was on Turkish troops to withdraw from the occupied north of the island.

?Turkey should let the Cypriot people be free,? he said, adding that Ankara should realize that bilateral relations cannot be determined through military force and threats.