Into the final stretch

With new opinion polls now banned in the runup to the March 7 elections, the opposition New Democracy party is entering the final two-week stretch with a comfortable lead over PASOK. The last poll, made public yesterday by state TV channel NET, showed that ND would get 41 percent if elections were held today, ahead of PASOK with 37.9 percent and the Communist Party with 5.3 percent. The Kappa Research nationwide poll, among 1,701 households, said 2.6 percent picked Synaspismos Left Coalition, 1.6 percent, the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) and 1 percent extreme-right LAOS. It found 8 percent still undecided. If the undecided were factored into the result, the 3.1 percent difference in favor of ND would narrow to 1.7. Other polls published Thursday and yesterday gave ND a lead ranging from 2.9-4.2 percent. Given these numbers, and having seen how much an abortive effort by a former deputy minister to pass a controversial land development amendment has cost PASOK, ND is expected to keep hammering away on alleged corruption. ND will also try to highlight its policies. PASOK is expected to try to hold the voters it had in 2000 by repeating its historic symbols and by focusing on its popular new leader, George Papandreou. Yesterday, Papandreou suggested that PASOK could cooperate with Synaspismos after the elections. Papandreou yesterday also presented his ideas for education reform and appeared to agree with ND’s proposal to break the monopoly of state-controlled universities. Among his proposals, Papandreou said he was in favor of «the establishment of non-state, non-profit universities with the collaboration of local authorities and economic institutions.» Agreement by the two main parties could lead to such a reform. ND announced its «state deputy» list of candidates, up to six of whom may be elected. Former party leader Miltiades Evert is first, followed by chief strategist Giorgos Souflias, Eleni Bernidaki (a blind teacher), ND spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos, international affairs adviser Yiannis Valinakis and publisher Chrysa Karydi.