Euro vote is fought over local issues

Tomorrow, Greeks will go to the polls to elect their 24 members in the European Parliament that will represent the 25 countries which are now members of the European Union. Although the election for the 723-member assembly will help determine the future of the newly enlarged Europe, the campaign in Greece – as in many other member states – has been fought on issues of national interest mainly. In Greece, the focus has been on how the opposition PASOK party – which fell from power in elections just last March by a margin of 5 percent – will do this time. The conservative New Democracy government is enjoying a honeymoon period and is likely to hold its strength but the Socialists, under new leader George Papandreou, appear to be seeking their way. Analysts expect the gap between the first and second parties to be wider than in the national election. Papandreou, who has begun a substantial overhaul of his party (to the extent that none of its 24 candidates is an incumbent in the European Parliament) argued yesterday that the government had to be sent a message by the electorate. «We must not give New Democracy a blank check,» he told a news conference. «In 100 days, we have seen neither consistency nor determination regarding the issues that New Democracy had promised to deal with. The contradictions, the lack of strategy and policy, the creation of a climate aimed precisely at not fulfilling pre-electoral promises is something that the Greek people must reply to,» Papandreou argued. Karamanlis, in a rally ending his party’s campaign at the Zappeion Hall yesterday, said the Greeks would vote tomorrow to express what they want with regard to Europe’s future but would also choose the party that had always worked to strengthen ties with Europe. He also pledged that the promises ND made before the election would be kept. «We are leaving behind once and for all the past of corruption, arrogance, and the unaccountability of the few in the face of the many,» he proclaimed. «We want to bring Greece to the first rank of Europe. We want to be stronger, to move forward with self-confidence and optimism.» Papandreou stressed that he would not be swayed from reforming PASOK. «Dissent is part of our democratic culture,» he said. «The minority’s voice will always be heard, but that does not mean that we will not move ahead together in the next months to complete PASOK’s reform, so that we can be ready to return to power,» he added.