Political dash for the center ground

PASOK will focus the final phase of its election campaign on attracting center ground voters it feels are being alienated by New Democracy, while also challenging the leftist parties to be clearer about whether they are willing to cooperate after May 6, sources said on Thursday.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos is due to present his party?s policy program on Saturday, as the Socialists sense that the positions adopted by ND leader Antonis Samaras have given them an opportunity to boost their support in the last few days of the campaign.

Samaras presented on Thursday his party?s political and social reform agenda, with a great emphasis on law and order issues. PASOK saw this as another indication that Samaras is attempting to appeal to conservative, right-wing voters and that this means more moderate Greeks who occupy the center ground could back the Socialists in next Sunday?s elections.

?Mr Samaras is the source of an ultraconservative, outdated sort of political language that is reminiscent of the 1950s and 60s, which is far removed from the principles of New Democracy?s founder [Constantine Karamanlis],? said PASOK spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata.

PASOK trailed New Democracy 14 percent to 21.5 percent in a Public Issue opinion poll a week ago, which was the last before the elections. But Venizelos insists the center-left party can overtake the conservatives.

Saturday will be Venizelos?s first opportunity to counter in front of a national audience the policy proposals set out by Samaras over the last few days. Venizelos is due to follow this up by speaking at a rally in Thessaloniki on Sunday.

Venizelos is expected to press the Democratic Left and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) to clarify their positions on potential cooperation with PASOK. Gennimata pointed to the fact that in France, the leftist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon had thrown his weight behind Socialist hopeful Francois Hollande for the second round. ?I think the Greek left has to assume its responsibilities,? she said.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras appeared to rule out working with PASOK in an interview on Thursday but said he would consider cooperating with the nationalist Independent Greeks led by Panos Kammenos. The unlikely alliance of the parties, at different ends of the political spectrum, would be created if there were a chance of forming a front to prevent Greece?s new loan agreement being implemented, said Tsipras.