PM Papademos poised to announce May 6 elections

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is expected to meet President Karolos Papoulias at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and announce that Greece is to hold what promise to be its most intensely contested elections in several decades on May 6.

Sources told Kathimerini that Papademos decided on the date about three weeks ago but had to wait for legislation linked to Greece?s second bailout to pass through Parliament before he could formalize his choice. A Labor Ministry bill relating to social security reform approved by MPs on Tuesday left the path clear for the interim prime minister to meet Papoulias.

Papademos favored May 6 for the elections in order to give the new government as much time as possible to prepare for key meetings later in the month, including a Eurogroup, a European Union leaders? summit, and the May 21 NATO summit in Chicago. According to sources, the premier also had his eye on the June visit of officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, collectively known as the troika. Greece will have to agree on more than 11 billion euros of savings for 2013 and 2014 then. It is possible that the new government will have to adopt extra measures for this year as well.

Sources said it was also clear to Papademos that his short-term coalition could not hold together much longer as cooperation between PASOK and New Democracy cabinet members had deteriorated in the last couple of weeks as both parties began to look toward the elections.

Papademos is due to meet the Cabinet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. After meeting the president to inform him of the election date, the prime minister is due to address the nation, as the outcome of the imminent polls remains in the balance. Opinion polls indicate it is still unclear whether PASOK and ND will get a large enough combined vote to form a new coalition government. There is also uncertainty over how many parties will enter Parliament and whether another type of unity administration will be possible.

The May 6 election date gives the parties the minimum time of 25 days that the constitution allows for them to prepare for polling day. A cross-party electoral committee is due to meet on Tuesday to allocate TV airtime to the groups. The parties will have to name their candidates by April 20 and submit their lists to the Supreme Court by April 25. April 20 will also be the last day on which opinion polls can be published in Greece.