NEWS

Insults fly as election fever grows

In a highly charged speech at an indoor stadium packed with past and present senior officials of his party, Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday celebrated the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) with a pre-election speech attacking the conservative New Democracy party and spelling out his priorities if he wins the next elections. The next four years, Simitis, his blue shirt drenched in sweat, told the crowd at the Panellinios Stadium, will be «four years of high risk.» Priorities include the target of convergence with the EU at all levels, the solution of the Cyprus problem, the delineation of the continental shelf in the Aegean and the successful organization of the Athens 2004 Olympics. Elections must be held by next spring. On the day following his announcement of 2.3 billion euros’ worth of measures aimed at helping all sectors of society (from higher pensions and unemployment benefits to a reduction in taxes on cars) Simitis kept up his attack on the opposition. New Democracy, he charged, «cannot govern Greece.» Without naming ND leader Costas Karamanlis, Simitis added, «Being in power is not a vehicle for satisfying egotism; it is not a prize that the Greek people owe anyone who calls himself a politician.» New Democracy returned the favor. «Mr Simitis has set the country back several years by continually repeating baseless promises,» Karamanlis charged after meeting with the board of the Federation of Greek Industries. ND’s honorary chairman, Constantine Mitsotakis, called Simitis’s measures «an act of criminal political irresponsibility» for the effect they would have on deficits. «Mr Karamanlis is correct in calling for elections immediately, because it is not only damaging but dangerous for the nation when a dangerous government sacrifices everything in its desperate effort to hold on to power,» Mitsotakis said. Industrialists and businessmen also were wary in their comments on the government’s social package, expressing fear of the cost this would have.