ND set for first vote

Parliament will vote at midnight on whether to give Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s New Democracy government a vote of confidence. With the conservatives having won 165 of the 300 seats in the March 7 elections, the roll call vote is a formality. The vote comes after a three-day debate in which Karamanlis made his first appearance as prime minister and PASOK chairman George Papandreou his first as leader of the opposition. Both represent a new generation in Greece’s politics and the election campaign was unusually civil, but Karamanlis and Papandreou showed yesterday that they will not shrink from a spirited debate. Buoyed by a poll (conducted by VPRC and published yesterday in Kathimerini) that found that he had a «positive» rating of 63 percent plus a «rather positive» one 16 percent, Karamanlis rejected Papandreou’s charge that his policy declaration had been vague and that he had tried to negate the previous government’s achievements. «I am the last person who would conduct a policy of negating everything. But, on the other hand, I feel I must remind you that two weeks ago your policies were rejected,» Karamanlis retorted. Opening the debate on Saturday, Karamanlis said: «I do not want a grace period but the mobilization of all against the problems faced by all Greeks. The new form of government entails a new mentality.» He promised to govern on the basis of a rebirth of culture and education, on values and principles, with a smaller state and a different economic policy. He announced the scrapping of laws which allegedly encouraged corruption, and promised effective administration and an end to wastefulness, lower taxes, new public works, a rejuvenation of the countryside and the upgrading of tourism. Karamanlis said that despite delays, if there was a climate of consensus, Olympic Games projects would be ready in time. He said Greece wanted good relations with all its neighbors and would work to normalize ties with Turkey, adding that this depended also on the solving of the Cyprus problem. Earlier, Papandreou declared: «We heard an interesting pre-election speech, full of general assertions and announcements, references to pre-electoral commitments, good intentions, worthy exhortations… But three basic questions remained unanswered: How, when and how much?»

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