PM targets further reforms as ND’s main priorities

Parliament was due to give a vote of confidence to the New Democracy government last night and bring an end to three days of debate about the plans that the conservatives have for their new term in office. The government has 152 MPs following the September 16 election and was not expected to suffer any scares in the vote, due to take place at midnight. The traditional procedure is expected to pave the way for the conservatives to submit their draft budget for 2008 to Parliament today. Kathimerini understands that the Economy and Finance Ministry foresees a drop in the public deficit from 2.5 percent of GDP this year to 1.7 percent next year. It is also likely to propose new measures to combat the illegal fuel trade and a new form of annual property tax. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis began the three-day debate over the government’s policies on Friday by promising that his would be an administration «of all the Greeks.» Karamanlis underlined that reforming Greece’s overburdened social security system would be one of the government’s priorities. The premier said he would guarantee that pensioners claiming the lowest state payment available would not be living below the poverty line. He also targeted changes in the way that students pass into tertiary education and a reform of the electoral law, which could see the first party past the post earn an extra 50 rather than 40 seats in Parliament. PASOK leader George Papandreou called on the «powers of the Left» to unite and form a «large coalition» inside and outside Parliament. Papandreou heavily criticized the government’s privatization program and its «informal cooperation» with the right-wing nationalists of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). PASOK’s political council is due to meet on Thursday to prepare the ground for the leadership vote on November 11. An opinion poll conducted by RASS and published in yesterday’s To Paron newspaper gave Papandreou a lead on 44.9 percent, followed by Evangelos Venizelos on 39.7 percent. It is the first survey since the elections to show Papandreou ahead. However, the same poll indicated that 51.5 percent of PASOK voters believe Venizelos will win the leadership ballot and only 28.2 think Papandreou will come out on top.

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