Parties reject change

The political firestorm sparked by the government’s proposed changes to the electoral system raged unabated yesterday, with small leftist parties joining the conservatives in rejecting Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s invitation for a dialogue on the subject. The government is examining the possibility of adding a clause to the proposal stating that electoral law changes will come into effect only after the presidential election of 2005. This is aimed at easing suspicion that PASOK wants to pass a law that will make it more difficult for a winning party to form a government on its own in time for 2005, when elections will have to be held if Parliament cannot elect a president by the necessary majority. According to the Constitution, a change in the electoral law can only come into effect after the next elections. «The electoral law changes which are being proposed will, in any case, come into effect after 2005 so there is no involvement with the election of a president,» Foreign Minister George Papandreou said after talks with Simitis. The proposals unveiled by the prime minister on Thursday would make the electoral law more representative, making it more difficult for a winning party to form a government on its own and thereby encouraging coalitions. Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis yesterday explained that 80 percent of the vote (229 seats in the 300-member Parliament) would be divided proportionally among contending parties (as long as they cleared the 3 percent threshold for entry into Parliament) while the other 71 would be split by the two leading parties at a ratio of 3:1. This would allow a winning party still to form a government on its own. The proposal also aimed at making the New Democracy party look stubborn in its refusal to enter a dialogue on the issue. ND leader Costas Karamanlis declared angrily on Thursday he would not be drawn into the «parody» of discussing changes in the runup to elections (which must be held by next spring). Only if the proposal were backed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament could it come into effect in the next elections. Karamanlis reiterated his opposition yesterday, saying the changes were PASOK’s concession of defeat. Communist Party General Secretary Aleka Papariga, Left Coalition Chairman Nikos Constantopoulos and Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas all rejected the invitation to a dialogue.

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