PM rethinks strategy

The ruling conservatives will attempt to return the focus of political debate to economic and education reforms and move it away from accusations of corruption after next month’s local elections, government sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis feels that his administration has become stuck in a rut following the recent claims that the Mevgal dairy firm was blackmailed by a Competition Commission official. Government sources said that since the story broke earlier this month, the media has concentrated on graft allegations and the conservatives feel they are constantly struggling to defend their record. Recent developments also seem to have had an impact on the government’s popularity. An opinion poll conducted by Metron Analysis gave the government a relatively slender 1.6 percent lead over its main opposition, PASOK. The poll, published in the Imerisia newspaper on Saturday, showed 32.6 percent support for New Democracy and 31 percent for the Socialists. According to sources close to the prime minister, recent events have prompted Karamanlis to rethink the electoral strategy he will adopt following the October 15 local elections. He wants to shift the focus back to economic reforms, such as the selloff of part of the government’s stake in OTE Telecoms, as well as completing the reform of tertiary education. If this goes smoothly, Karamanlis will call elections some time after the autumn next year, sources said. If the prime minister finds that there is stubborn opposition to the reforms, he may call elections next spring. Meanwhile, Greece’s European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told Sunday’s Kathimerini that more needed to be done to combat corruption. «Some isolated interventions are not enough to totally eradicate the phenomenon,» said Dimas. «Wholesale changes to the structure of public administration and the administrative mechanisms are needed. It is true that a large bureaucracy fosters corruption,» he said. Dimas added that Brussels was monitoring the Competition Commission’s investigation into the possible existence of a cartel by dairy firms in Greece.