NEWS

Frenzy in snap poll speculation

Members of New Democracy have begun jostling for position in anticipation of early elections, as Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has thrown down the gauntlet to PASOK, challenging the Socialists to approve for immediate use a new electoral law that gives 50 extra seats to the winning party. The ruling conservatives have sought to play down rumors that they are mulling over the possibility of a snap poll but a statement by former government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Sunday that he will be one of the ND candidates in Attica at the next elections caused tension within the party. Several party members spoke out against Roussopoulos, and former head of political planning Nikos Karahalios went as far as suggesting that he should give up his parliamentary seat. The talk of early elections was reignited by Pavlopoulos’s invitation to PASOK to back an immediate change to the electoral law. Under the existing law, a party must receive at least 3 percent of the total vote to elect an MP, while the first-past-the-post system means that roughly 41.5 percent of the vote is needed for a party to win the election and elect at least 151 of the 300 deputies. The current law, known as reinforced proportionality, awards 40 seats to the party that is first past the post and apportions the remaining seats according to the percentage of the vote each party receives. This is designed to boost the parliamentary strength of the elected government. Under the electoral law approved last February, an extra 10 seats (50 in total) would be awarded to the winning party. But the constitution does not allow the newly passed electoral law to be applied immediately unless it is approved by two-thirds of MPs. Pavlopoulos is in effect challenging PASOK to vote with the government and ensure that the new law, which awards 50 rather than 40 seats, comes into effect immediately. The thinking in the New Democracy ranks seems to be that if PASOK does not support the electoral law, it will appear that the Socialists are afraid of losing the next elections.