Premier rallies party, urges team spirit

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday sought to rally New Democracy deputies after a difficult week that saw the ruling party’s slender parliamentary majority threatened due to internal dissent following a series of scandals. Addressing ND’s parliamentary group, Karamanlis called on all cadres to work together to push through the government’s reforms, conceding that the past few years had seen a «relaxation in the team spirit that should bind ministers and deputies.» The premier reserved veiled criticism for his ministers, noting that their mandate dictated that they cooperate with deputies on matters relating to their electoral districts. He called for a policy of «open doors» between ministers, general secretaries and deputies to ensure that cooperation is as smooth as possible. Karamanlis, who is widely expected to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle shortly to inject new energy into the core of his government and boost the morale of supporters, gave no indication yesterday of when this might take place. The premier, who was interrupted by strong applause at a number of points during his speech, said that ND’s parliamentary group would henceforth meet more frequently to discuss specific subjects and allow the opinions and any proposals of deputies to be aired. Karamanlis’s speech was praised by many ND commentators for its comprehensiveness, referring to the government’s achievements to date but also taking issue with opposition policy without resorting to name-calling. «Reform is not an end in itself but a necessity to curb wasteful spending,» Karamanlis said, adding «Why should citizens pay 3 million euros a day for Olympic (Airlines)?» The PM also indirectly condemned the opposition as «self-serving demagogues.» Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou yesterday announced the tabling of a bill that envisages the disbursement of a «solidarity bonus» and heating allowance for poorer citizens. Meanwhile, PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou condemned Karamanlis for «abandoning his responsibilities as premier and concerning himself exclusively with how to cover up for guilty ministers and handle troublesome deputies.» But New Democracy deputies expressed satisfaction after the premier’s speech, many speaking in terms of a «new beginning.»

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