ND backs Pavlidis, looks ahead

The government sought to put an end yesterday to speculation over the future of its MP and former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis by saying that it would not be asking him to give up his seat. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said there was «no such issue» when asked whether New Democracy would be asking Pavlidis to resign or to become an independent deputy as a way of alleviating the pressure on the government after he became embroiled in a blackmail scandal. Although short in length, Roussopoulos’s response was the clearest public indication the government has given that it will stand by the Dodecanese MP. The timing of Roussopoulos’s comment was also significant as it came in the wake of several New Democracy officials, including ones as high-ranking as Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Deputy Merchant Marine Minister Panos Kammenos, publicly criticizing Pavlidis for not removing himself from the firing line. Moreover, the support for Pavlidis came in the week that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is preparing to make his keynote speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair, so ND wants to quash any talk of scandals. However, the government spokesman’s comment did not put an end to sniping from other ND deputies. MP Panayiotis Yiannopoulos became the latest to suggest that Pavlidis should follow the example of fellow conservative deputy Costas Koukodimos earlier this year and become an independent MP until things die down. «It would be a good solution if he made a move like the one by Koukodimos,» he said. Pavlidis has become embroiled in a blackmail case after allegations by shipowner Fotis Manousis that he was forced to pay bribes to secure state subsidies. Pavlidis’s aide was charged with blackmail some three weeks ago and the matter has dominated the political agenda with the government coming under scrutiny over its handling of the former minister. Pavlidis, who denies any wrongdoing, has insisted he will not give up his seat in Parliament as an ND deputy. PASOK attempted to keep the controversy alive yesterday via MP Dinos Rovlias who submitted three questions to Parliament, asking for precise information about the case.