PM accuses opponents of ‘extremism’

Yesterday’s last parliamentary debate between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and opposition leader Costas Karamanlis was a rather subdued affair, with the rivals engaging in scoring points over each other without directly replying to each other’s allegations. Simitis, not for the first time, tried to paint New Democracy as, at heart, an extremist, ultra-rightist party. Karamanlis, he said, kept talking about his moderation and a «different political culture» that transcends the old left-right divide, yet allows ND officials to use «obscenities… against myself and George Papandreou:» the foreign minister who has been announced to succeed Simitis as head of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). «(New Democracy’s) words and deeds are at odds, it uses doublespeak, unethical means, arrogance, personal attacks and mud-slinging,» he said. Simitis defended his government’s achievements and accused New Democracy of acting irresponsibly in opposition with «a nihilistic, scaremongering logic» to hide its lack of policy alternatives. He predicted that, if New Democracy wins the March 7 general election, «the weak shall live much worse days.» The PM disparaged New Democracy’s electoral program as «last-minute plans» that will not stand up to scrutiny. For his part, Karamanlis said he would not follow Simitis’s «petty» approach, but accused his government, nonetheless, of fostering corruption. «Your system of power has surrendered to interests great and small,» he said, adding that his government would take a radically different approach to administration. Karamanlis also attacked Papandreou. «Where is your successor?» he enquired of Simitis. «The real debate takes place here, in Parliament, not at media-staged events.» Papandreou was in Thessaloniki, speaking before some 7,000 supporters at the Alexandreion arena. Often sounding like a challenger rather than a government member, he promised he would lead an «ethical revolution» and called on moderates on the left and right alike to support him.

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