NEWS

Premier adopts a long-term strategy to push through reforms

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s decision to press ahead rapidly with the government’s promised reforms and the aggressive policy he has adopted toward various forms of entanglement have ushered in a new political era which promises tension in public life. Those who predicted a post-Olympic slowdown should probably get ready for a politically and socially active time. Karamanlis’s government is expected to embark on action that will test its political strength, both in its planned economic and public administration reforms and in battles with its opponents. Sources say the premier will not decide on elections in 2005 until he has assessed the political gains and losses from what has happened by the end of this year. Only then will the general climate allow him to think about whether the government should call early elections and how to handle the issue of choosing a candidate for the presidential election. His colleagues insist that the prime minister does not intend to call an early election unless urgent events compel him to change his mind. They also say that he prefers a presidential candidate chosen by consensus, but has not yet decided on one or more. Unofficially, Karamanlis has heard that opposition leader George Papandreou is willing to discuss many names that the two major parties might find suitable. Before these issues mature, the government will have created the right climate through its ability to promote serious policies with coordinated action by ministers, its communications policy, and its ability to ward off attacks on it by powerful entangled interests and defuse any tension that some of its bolder decisions may spark in some sections of society. For instance, the prime minister and the government’s economic staff deem that Olympic Airlines is finished and see no other solution than to close down the company. Similarly, just a few days ago, the announcement of a plan for the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) that included retrenching thousands of employees instantly provoked strong opposition. Despite the difficulties, which he has acknowledged in his meetings with colleagues, Karamanlis is determined to go ahead. As for his communications policy, sources say he is planning to extend his direct contact with voters whenever he sees that the influential media players are blocking his message. He has repeatedly told his colleagues that he is ready to combat forces that have so far attempted to hold back any attempt at real development in Greece, and that the last thing he wants is to rule by compromise, which he believes will not solve national problems.