Electoral law on all lips

As Greece’s political parties continued to spar over whether the electoral law should be changed, a surprising comment came from the electorate itself yesterday. An opinion poll suggests that a large majority of people would like to see a dialogue on the changes and that nearly half of those polled said they would prefer early elections in October rather than in April 2004, when PASOK’s four-year mandate expires. The RASS nationwide poll published by Eleftherotypia suggested that 76.8 percent would like to see opposition New Democracy take part in a dialogue with the government on an electoral law change – something which New Democracy rejects. Indeed, 64.6 percent of ND voters and 84.3 percent of PASOK voters said they would like to see the dialogue. With regard to the most suitable time for elections, 49.3 percent chose October and 42.6 percent preferred April 2004. New Democracy supporters were keener on October (65.8 percent compared to PASOK’s 35.2 percent). This reflects on the fact that New Democracy is currently leading PASOK by about 8 percent in opinion polls. Interestingly, though it did not measure voters’ intentions in the next elections, the poll showed a majority believes that PASOK still has the time to turn around the situation, with 57 percent saying it is possible if the government takes measures. PASOK voters were more optimistic (70.5 percent, as opposed to ND’s 37.8 percent). The telephone poll was conducted among 1,301 people from July 11-16. In interviews in the Sunday press, leading members of the two major parties repeated their parties’ positions. In an interview with Kathimerini, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said, «We are prepared to commit ourselves to introducing a clause into the electoral law saying this will come into effect after the first half of 2005.» This would silence critics who suspect the government expects to lose the next elections and then wants to exploit the opportunity provided by a possible failure by Parliament to elect a president in 2005: National elections would then be held under a system that makes it harder for a single party to win. ND’s Dimitris Sioufas told Kathimerini it was a matter «of principle and political ethics» not to discuss changes to an electoral law in the runup to elections.

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