PM rules out rush to polls

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis attempted yesterday to kill off speculation about snap elections and get his government back on track after it was rocked by the fallout from the Zachopoulos scandal. The decision by MP Costas Koukodimos on Thursday to declare that he would sit as an independent after he was embroiled in the scandal reduced the government’s majority in the 300-seat house to just one. This prompted rumors that Karamanlis was considering calling another general election. But the premier sought to douse the scuttlebutt as emphatically as possible. «The government has a fresh and powerful popular mandate,» he told journalists after meeting with President Karolos Papoulias. «We have a lot of work and we will move forward responsibly with the necessary reforms.» After the blow of losing Koukodimos, the government sought to bolster its defenses further by backing the under-fire head of the financial crimes squad Spyros Kladas. Koukodimos has been accused of acting on Kladas’s behalf in order to prevent the public official’s name from being linked to the affair involving former Culture Ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos and his assistant, who allegedly blackmailed him. Despite rumors that Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis was upset with Kladas’s handling of the situation, the meeting between the two yesterday appeared to pass without incident. Alogoskoufis insisted that the financial crimes squad «is doing its job very well.» Nevertheless, he ordered yesterday an internal investigation into how details from the financial crimes squad’s probe into the financial dealings of journalist and Proto Thema newspaper co-owner Themos Anastasiadis were leaked. Meanwhile, PASOK yesterday submitted an official request for a parliamentary committee to be set up to investigate allegations that German company Siemens had in the past paid bribes to members of the Greek government to secure state contracts. The government is against the move and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said yesterday that a parliamentary investigation could prejudice the judicial probe currently being carried out.