Backing for reforms

Most voters back the government’s controversial university reforms, according to a poll made public yesterday, as the prime minister appears to be coming under pressure from some of his ministers to capitalize on the support and call early elections. Less than a week after the ruling conservatives unveiled their long-awaited reform bill, a survey conducted for Sunday’s Kathimerini indicates that 53 percent of voters believe that the proposed changes are in the correct or «probably correct» direction. A similar amount of respondents (56 percent) said that they are in favor of state-funded universities gaining more independence. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said last week that this is a key aim of the reforms. Two-thirds of those questioned by pollsters VPRC said that they support the government’s intention to change the so-called asylum rule so that students can no longer prevent police from entering campuses. There also seems to be substantial support (60 percent) for the move to limit the time students have to complete their degrees – the government has proposed this be set at double the normal length of the degree. However, the poll suggests that despite the apparent support for the university reforms, 66 percent of voters are unhappy with the way that the Education Ministry has handled the process. A sizable chunk of respondents (42 percent) also appear to feel that the reforms do not go far enough, classifying them as «small» or «very small.» The draft law has met with strong opposition from a section of university teachers and students who decided late on Friday to continue with strikes and public protests for an eighth week, starting today. Some members of the government feel that the polarization that these protests appear to be causing means that Karamanlis should go to the polls and secure public backing for the reforms as well as another term in office to implement them. The results of the VPRC poll are likely to boost the claims of at least six ministers who have reportedly asked the prime minister to call elections for this May.