NEWS

Party leaders resume poll race

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos tried to steal a march on his New Democracy rival Antonis Samaras on Tuesday by announcing proposals for new post-election social measures ahead of the conservative chief unveiling his latest plan to revive Greece?s shrinking economy.

Venizelos is due to begin a series of nationwide speeches on Wednesday ahead of the May 6 elections but sought to be the first to grab the media spotlight following the Easter holiday by presenting a series of social measures designed to ease the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable members of Greek society.

Among the suggestions put forward by the former finance minister are extending the provision of healthcare. Thousands of Greeks who have lost their jobs are also losing access to public healthcare as they cannot collect the necessary social security credits. Venizelos also pledged to tackle youth unemployment. More than 50 percent of Greeks under 25 are jobless and the PASOK leader says he would use more European Union funds to tackle the problem. Venizelos spoke to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday to discuss the release of an extra 150 million euros.

Samaras will be hoping to eclipse Venizelos when he unveils his economic program tomorrow.

The New Democracy leader will set out a policy agenda, which is likely to include tax cuts, at Zappeio Hall in Athens, where he has already launched two previous economic proposals, known as Zappeio I and II.

ND also unveiled its candidate list, which included former Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, who was forced to resign twice, and Giorgos Simbilidis, an MP who caused the downfall of the ND government of Costas Mitsotakis in 1993.

One of ND?s most serious threats at the ballot box comes from the Independent Greeks, which was set up by conservative exile Panos Kammenos. The nationalist party announced Tuesday that it would be cooperating with the small leftist group People?s Chariot, which was formed by Yiannis Dimaras, a PASOK deputy who was ousted from the Socialists when he voted against Greece?s first bailout in May 2010. Dimaras acknowledged that the merging of forces on different sides of the political spectrum was strange but said the two sides, both opposed to the new bailout, had agreed on 10 principles ?to fight a common battle against treason.?