NEWS

PM comes out fighting

Rumors that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was set to call snap elections yesterday were dispelled when he emerged from an unscheduled inner cabinet meeting to make a televised address during which he pledged to press ahead with his plans for reforms. On Wednesday, when there was a media blackout due to the journalists’ strike, speculation mounted that Karamanlis was preparing to go to the polls after seeing his government’s parliamentary majority reduced to just one earlier in the week. However, sources said that the premier simply called his ministers in for what proved to be a pep talk. He asked them to focus on «real politics» and to have closer contact with New Democracy MPs and the wider public. He then left the meeting to give a relatively rare public address in which he reaffirmed his determination to keep leading the country. «This government was voted in to power to change things and it is changing things,» he said. «This is the mandate I received and I plan to fulfill it completely. «The reforms will continue despite the strong opposition of those that have grown comfortable. The country cannot afford to wait.» Karamanlis also announced plans to introduce new laws to help people who take out loans, as well as to augment the Social Cohesion Fund and increase heating oil subsidies for the poor. Significantly, the prime minister also proposed a parliamentary debate on the implications of the current financial crisis. It will be Karamanlis’s first head-to-head clash since George Papandreou’s PASOK overtook the conservatives in several opinion polls. Karamanlis is seen as a much stronger public speaker and debater than Papandreou and is likely to use the opportunity to help make up some lost ground on the Socialists. The move is also seen as one aimed at rallying the party’s 151 MPs as speculation continues over whether Arcadia deputy Petros Tatoulis intends to keep criticizing the government now that its majority is so slender.