NEWS

Attention turns to general elections

New Democracy and PASOK yesterday both tried to draw advantages from their performances in the local elections although voter abstention, which reached more than 43 percent in prefectural polls, was a worrying factor for both camps. PASOK’s political council met yesterday, slightly buoyed after the second round of votes on Sunday which led to the Socialists gaining control of five prefectures and narrowing the gap with the ruling conservatives. PASOK won 22 prefectures outright, up from 19 in 2002, while New Democracy equaled its record of winning 30 prefectures. The Socialists won the regional governorships in Serres, Lefkada, Cephalonia, Magnesia and Karditsa on Sunday. New Democracy took Arcadia and Hania. The late rally by the Socialists put party leader George Papandreou in a stronger position for yesterday’s meeting when some party stalwarts had been expected to heavily criticize his leadership. Led by MP Evangelos Venizelos, a number of senior officials called for PASOK to develop clearer policies ahead of general elections which are due by March 2008, sources said. New Democracy appeared disappointed with the results from Sunday’s second round even though the overall results satisfied the ruling conservatives who have been in power for just over two-and-a-half years, sources said. However, turnout was low with 35.4 percent of voters staying away from municipal polls and 43.3 abstaining from prefectural elections.