In a secret ballot due to be held at midnight tonight, deputies are to vote on whether to investigate former conservative Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis over claims that he was involved in the blackmail of a shipowner. New Democracy deputies have been instructed to vote according to their conscience and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Saturday that he does not want any doubt hanging over Pavlidis and the government. «What is most important is that the case is investigated thoroughly so that there is no shadow cast on the honor and esteem in which the political world is held,» said Karamanlis. The opposition parties ratcheted up the pressure on the government over the Pavlidis affair and any implications that an inquiry would have. «If Mr Pavlidis is investigated, the government’s position will be precarious because it will be relying on the vote of a deputy who will have to answer to justice,» said PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos. The ruling conservatives currently have 151 deputies, although ousted PetrosTatoulis usually supports ND bills. The government is concerned that if Pavlidis is probed, it will not be able to be seen to rely on his vote. Also, should Pavlidis be ousted by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the conservatives will only have 150 deputies in practice. In either case, the possibility of early elections seems to have become more likely.