ND mulls new poll date

The government did not deny rumors yesterday that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is considering calling general elections for September 16 and not the 23rd as had been widely expected. Reacting to the claims, the premier’s aides issued a standard response that it is up to Karamanlis to decide the date. They did not reject, however, claims that the prime minister might ask for a meeting this week with President Karolos Papoulias to officially request the dissolution of Parliament and the right to call an election. The Constitution stipulates that there must be a minimum of 26 days between when the poll date is announced and when the country goes to the polls. This would mean that the first Sunday that the election could be held is September 16. Sources said that some of Karamanlis’s aides have been advising him to hold the election at the earliest date possible. They believe this would discomfit PASOK as it would deny Socialist leader George Papandreou the opportunity to respond to Karamanlis’s speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). Karamanlis is due to deliver his keynote policy speech on the opening weekend of the fair (September 7-9). According to tradition, the leader of the opposition speaks at TIF the following weekend. But should elections be held on September 16, Papandreou would not have the chance to deliver his address. Another bonus for the government would be that the head of the committee to combat money laundering, Giorgos Zorbas, would not have time to brief a panel of MPs on his investigation into the bond scandal. Zorbas is due to go to Parliament next Tuesday but if the date for the election has been set by then, his briefing would have to be postponed. Meanwhile, PASOK’s election planning team is due to meet today and is expected to announce who will take over duties as party spokesman during the election campaign as the incumbent, Petros Efthymiou, will stand as a parliamentary candidate in Athens.