Parties ramp up pre-election campaigns

Greece?s political parties ramped up their election campaigns Thursday, following the announcement of snap polls for May 6, with conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras raising new doubts about the prospects of him forming a coalition government with socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos and suggesting that a second round of elections would be ?unavoidable? if the first polls yield ?a lack of governance.?

In an interview with the newspaper Axia, Samaras suggested that he would only agree to a unity government on his terms, saying it would be ?blackmail to force a party that wins the election to govern with those who have lost.?

Sources told Kathimerini that, despite opinion polls showing ND losing ground, Samaras is convinced his party can win round wavering conservatives and undecided voters.

In PASOK, sources said Venizelos is still open to cooperating in a new coalition but that the party?s recent gains in opinion polls have fueled hopes that the party can still emerge first in elections.

Smaller parties continued to hone their strategies too, while there were reports of a new party being formed. The leaders of the center-right parties Democratic Alliance and Drasi, Dora Bakoyannis and Stefanos Manos, reportedly discussed joining forces. But sources said neither is willing to take a secondary role.

Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece?s three foreign creditors, lauded the efforts of the political parties that have backed economic reforms. In a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, the IMF chief hailed Greeks for their ?courage? and praised Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, with whom she claimed to have ?cooperated harmoniously.?