NEWS

PASOK wants early polls

The leader of the main opposition PASOK party yesterday declared a vote of no confidence against the conservative government and demanded early elections in what was widely seen as a bid to overcome divisions within the Socialist party. George Papandreou submitted the censure motion in Parliament yesterday morning, following his party’s withdrawal from a debate to revise the country’s Constitution, citing the ruling New Democracy party’s «failure» as a government. «The government has grown old very fast… it has registered only pitiful failures… so we demand elections. Enough is enough,» the PASOK chief told Parliament. The censure motion, due to be put to a vote tomorrow night, is unlikely to destabilize the government, which enjoys a comfortable majority in Parliament. According to government sources, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who was not in Parliament during Papandreou’s speech, reacted by ruling out the prospect of early elections and said ND would complete its four-year term in 2008. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said a three-day debate on the motion would begin immediately, meaning a vote will take place at midnight tomorrow. Speaking to reporters after talks with Karamanlis, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said the opposition challenge had been fueled by an internal crisis within PASOK. «This is a reflection of the personal and political deadlocks faced by the opposition leader,» Alogoskoufis said. «The government is ready to come to Parliament and present its work, which will be finished by the end of the four-year term,» he added. He was echoed by the government’s alternate spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, who said, «Mr Papandreou, evidently in a position of weakness, is rejecting the constitutional revision and sacrificing it to personal and party interests.» According to government sources, Papandreou’s move was an attempt to rally PASOK cadres around him following an internal rift over revisions to Article 16 of the Constitution, which would allow the creation of private universities. The same sources said that Karamanlis is expected to direct harsh criticism against Papandreou during a speech scheduled for tomorrow prior to the vote.