NEWS

Karamanlis promises development

Opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday presented his vision of «four years of great opportunities for development» as he arrived in Thessaloniki to visit the 68th International Trade Fair. The annual fair is traditionally the scene for the prime minister to present economic policy for the coming year and for the opposition leader to answer him a week later. With elections due by May, this year’s pilgrimage to Thessaloniki has served as the start of a long pre-election campaign. In a speech to party cadres, which set the scene for tonight’s address to businessmen and others, Karamanlis sought to portray himself as a prime minister in waiting and to undercut incumbent Costas Simitis by presenting him and his PASOK party as lacking credibility due to their failure to deliver on past promises. Over the past two weeks, Simitis has presented a program of handouts and salary and pension increases expected to cost some 2.6 billion euros and has presented a «Convergence Charter,» a blueprint for Greece to draw closer to its EU partners over 2004-2008, a period which Simitis calls «a high-risk four years.» In the first major poll since those announcements (to be published in today’s Apogevmatini daily), PASOK has slightly narrowed New Democracy’s lead. The nationwide poll, conducted among 1,974 people by ALCO between Sept. 4-11, found that 39.77 percent would vote for ND if elections were held now, with 33 percent voting for PASOK. In June, these percentages were 39.5 percent and 31.1 percent respectively. In other words, the gap has narrowed from 8.4 percent to 6.77 percent. In June, 33.7 percent of those polled saw Karamanlis as the better candidate for prime minister, ahead of Simitis with 32.1 percent, but the PM now edged out the opposition leader by 33.9 to 33.5 percent. «The prime minister’s fake promises and his ‘charter of promises’ can no longer persuade anyone,» Karamanlis said. He criticized Simitis for saying foreign policy issues would be in a «high risk» phase in the next four years. «The Greeks must rest assured, New Democracy will not play pre-election games with their future,» he declared.