PM shifts focus from early polls

Picking up where he left off over the weekend, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis focused attention on the economy rather than the possibility of early elections, as he met with representatives of the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY), ahead of a 24-hour strike in the public sector tomorrow. Karamanlis made his clearest and most public statement on speculation about a snap poll on Saturday, when he addressed a gathering of New Democracy’s youth wing (ONNED). «I have made it clear that this matter does not concern us, nor does it affect us,» he said. «I am not thinking about elections. «I am putting an end to this discussion. I emphasize that. This issue does not concern the government’s priorities, it does not affect our planning.» Karamanlis instead highlighted the tough economic conditions that the country is going through. He did the same yesterday when meeting with ADEDY officials. This move is seen by some as an attempt by the prime minister to stop people within his own party from continuously speculating about the date of the next election. It is also regarded as an effort to regain the element of surprise should he decide that the country must go to the polls early. Karamanlis met with ADEDY chiefs to discuss among other things the dispute over wages and working hours that is currently crippling state hospitals, which are due to operate with only emergency staff tomorrow as doctors and nurses have voted to take part in a strike called by the public sector union. The action is also expected to cause wider disruption in the civil service and possibly on public transport but details were not available yesterday. Whether Karamanlis is considering early elections or not, the prime minister asked ADEDY officials to show understanding regarding the difficult economic conditions and support the government’s efforts to tackle the problems. Whenever Karamanlis does call elections, one party leader he will definitely come up against is Aleka Papariga, who over the weekend was re-elected as general secretary of the Communist Party’s central committee, putting an end to speculation that she would be replaced. Papariga has held the position since February 1991, when she became the first woman to lead KKE.

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