ND sets sights on gaining at least 43 percent

New Democracy is aiming to secure at least 43 percent of the vote in the snap general election, which is expected to be held on September 23, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has not yet announced that he will hold early elections but the indications are that he will do so shortly after returning from his vacation later this week. As a result, all the political parties have begun preparing their strategies for the election campaign. New Democracy insiders said that the ruling Conservatives will set themselves a target of winning at least 43 percent of the popular vote, which would guarantee the party at least 155 seats in the 300-seat Parliament. ND currently has 164 MPs, after winning 45.3 percent of the vote in 2004, compared to 113 deputies for PASOK, which garnered 40.5 percent three years ago. According to sources, the prime minister thinks that even a slender majority for his party would still give him enough leeway to implement its policies. The Conservatives are said to be expecting a full-on attack from PASOK in the coming weeks. They believe that the Socialists will try to polarize the pre-election atmosphere in a bid to close the gap of 2.5-3 percent that most opinion polls show between the country’s two most popular parties. ND also has an eye on Giorgos Karadzaferis’s Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), which is hoping to elect an MP for the first time. There is some concern that the ultra-right-wing party could take votes from New Democracy in certain areas of the country. PASOK is also drawing up its election strategy. Sources said that the party’s leader, George Papandreou, is aiming to get at least 40 percent of the vote should the Socialists not garner enough support to form the next government. If PASOK loses, Papandreou will be under pressure to step down with veteran MP Evangelos Venizelos said to be waiting in the wings. But if Papandreou secures at least 40 percent, party insiders think it will be more difficult to displace him. However, Papandreou yesterday accused the government of «destroying» Greece and publicly urged Karamanlis to hold elections as soon as possible. «This government has run its course,» Papandreou told Sunday’s To Vima newspaper. «Elections would get the country out of this dead-end.» If the general election is held next month, it will be the 22nd out of 23 polls since the Second World War to be held before the ruling government sees out its full term.