Parties clash in session’s last debate

Last night’s parliamentary debate on the economy resembled a pre-election rally as it was the last major debate before the House enters summer recess and before the local and regional elections in October. Prime Minister Costas Simitis took the opportunity to present his government’s achievements in the six years he has headed it, and to blame the conservative New Democracy for its brief period in government. «We are lagging but we have made leaps of progress because we were very far behind after the period 1990-1993,» Simitis said. He accused the opposition party of having «divisive and sterile tactics, and no ideas, but only a thirst for power that torpedoes systematic efforts and shows the country in a bad light.» New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis responded in kind, launching a blistering attack on the government’s policy in the economy and other sectors. He accused Simitis of a «shameless» attack on the late Constantine Karamanlis, the opposition leader’s namesake and uncle who led Greece back to democracy after the collapse of a seven-year dictatorship in 1974. This followed a comment by Simitis suggesting that democracy was fully established when the PASOK party came to power in 1981. «You are alone, Mr Simitis,» Karamanlis declared. «As to who has a lack of seriousness, look in the mirror.» He accused the government of shrinking before the fear of political cost in carrying out reforms, of wastefulness, of hiding the true state of the economy. He demanded to know the situation regarding EU funding. «Never has a government with so many funds carried out so few projects,» Costas Karamanlis charged. Simitis defended his policies, saying that proposals to reform the social security system were better than those presented by ND in 1990-93. Regarding privatization, he claimed that ND had wanted to sell off state property «to serve specific interests.» Simitis said Greece was converging with other EU countries in education, health, public services and infrastructure. «On the other hand, the opposition, with its naysaying, has no credibility. It prefers petty politics.» And 87 percent said this would be a negative rather than a positive development.