NEWS

Threats and promises

As campaigning for Sunday’s elections intensified, the two main parties yesterday fought pitched battles on two traditional political issues in Greece: how a new government will sack members of the public administration and how handouts will be funded. The conservative New Democracy party’s spokesman for public administration issues, Vyron Polydoras, set off a storm when, in an interview with Skai radio, he announced mass dismissals the day after the elections if his party wins. «First of all, with ‘Good morning’ all the officials will go,» Polydoras said. He said he was referring to the ruling PASOK party’s «system» of ministerial aides. «There are 10,000 of these officials, sitting pretty next to the political staff,» he said. This gave PASOK an opening to raise the specter of widespread reprisals, something ND leader Costas Karamanlis has declared will not happen. «With no further comment, I would like to say that PASOK condemns ND which, on the one hand continues to pretend that it is a centrist and moderate party and at the same time its leader is indifferent as senior aides destroy the image that he is so anxious to create,» PASOK spokeswoman Anna Diamantopoulou said. She said she could understand a new government’s changing officials, «but when we talk about 10,000 people, this is a pogrom, not a change of leadership.» The head of the civil servants’ federation (ADEDY), Spyros Papaspyros, who is a PASOK member, noted that «the number of officials appointed by the government does not exceed 2,500 people.» This raised the question as to who the others were who would be dismissed. ND leader Karamanlis tried to contain the damage. «We united the Greeks, we did not divide them,» he declared. He also promised permanent employment for some 230,000 contract workers in the broader public sector. ND backed Polydoras, accusing PASOK of «conducting a systematic effort to distort the truth.» PASOK party leader George Papandreou was pressed to explain how a doubling of farmers’ pensions (from 200 euros to 400 euros per month) and other handouts that he promised on Monday would be paid for. The party said the measures would cost 2.2 billion euros. Papandreou said money would come from a high growth rate, foreign investments and lower defense spending. In an interview with Kathimerini, Papandreou explained his campaign tactics and policies.