ND set for early elections

Top government officials are expected to start preparing later this month for national elections that could be held as early as next spring, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The government’s progress on tertiary education reforms – a top priority for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis – will be the main factor influencing the exact date of elections, the sources added. New Democracy won a majority in Parliament on March 7, 2004, and has the right to serve four years in office. But Karamanlis is expected to call an election before his administration completes its full term – by next November at the latest. After officials return to work after their summer holidays, ministries will begin discussing their budgets for next year as the Economy and Finance Ministry must submit its draft budget to Parliament by October 2. Sources said ministry officials have been told to plan their spending with the idea that general elections will be held by the first week of November. By then, the ruling conservatives hope Greece will have reduced its public deficit to within the eurozone limit and that the European Commission will no longer be closely scrutinizing the country’s economic policies. Sources said that a vote in late fall will also give the government enough time to introduce tax cuts for low wage earners as well as address the education reforms. New Democracy’s initial efforts earlier this year to push through the tertiary education reforms stalled after opposition from students and some academics. However, sources say that Karamanlis is determined to see through the reforms. In a bid to appease students and academics, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou has called a new round of talks between the government and its critics on education reform. Sources say the prime minister will wait for the results of those discussions before the education reform bill is submitted to Parliament this winter. But if the students and the academics remain entrenched and opposed to the draft law, sources say Karamanlis will call elections next spring to get a public mandate that will help him push through the tertiary education reforms.

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