Parties in election mode

The date of the upcoming general elections is due to be announced this week, most likely on Wednesday, but the campaigning began in earnest over the weekend as PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras clashed over the content of the latter?s speech.

Venizelos dismissed Samaras?s address to party supporters in Egaleo, western Athens, on Saturday as a product of ?the deep partisan politics of the past.? He accused the ND leader of not showing an awareness of the difficult situation Greece finds itself in.

In his speech, Samaras pledged to boost low pensions, create jobs and compensate retail bondholders who have lost money due to the country?s debt restructuring plan, even though Greece?s eurozone partners have already indicated that they would block such an attempt.

Much of the ND leader?s address, though, was allocated to attacks on PASOK, which Samaras indirectly accused of wanting to delay elections, likely to be held on May 6. The conservative chief rejected the idea of a coalition government after the elections despite the fact that all opinion polls indicate that his party does not have enough support for a clear majority.

?Three elements want a coalition: Firstly, PASOK itself. Secondly, all those interests that don?t want anything in Greece to change and thirdly, all those within the country and abroad who want tomorrow?s government to be weak and easily controlled,? said Samaras.

In an interview with Sunday?s Kathimerini, Venizelos was more open to the idea of a coalition government but one that would not be a repeat of the current administration led by interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, which the PASOK leader said was damaged by New Democracy being ?both in and out of the government.?

?A strong government means decisive political leadership, a clear target and staying away from the traditional attitudes about clear majorities that some people seem to be obsessed about,? he said.

Asked whether he could guarantee no more cuts to wages and pensions, Venizelos said that he could not accept any more reductions to low pensions but warned against politicians who promised any more. He said whether more measures would be needed this year would depend on how close Greece is to its deficit target and that a range of new savings for 2013 and 2014 would have to be agreed in June.