NEWS

Fresh hope for ND in graft probe

New Democracy appeared more confident yesterday that its former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis will not face further action over corruption charges, mainly because the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) hinted that it would not vote in favor of having his immunity lifted. The 13 MPs who formed the committee that heard evidence on whether Pavlidis had blackmailed a shipowner over the awarding of state contracts are due to meet today to begin compiling a report that will be forwarded to Parliament. The House’s plenary session will then vote on Tuesday to decide whether Pavlidis should have his immunity lifted and face prosecution for allegedly accepting bribes from SAOS ferry firm owner Fotis Manousis. One of the conservative party’s most outspoken deputies suggested yesterday he might vote this way. «Mr Pavlidis might well be innocent but a judge should decide this,» said Yiannis Manolis. «It is not Parliament’s role to rule whether someone is innocent or guilty.» Manolis later told Kathimerini that he might be willing to reconsider his position if the government’s future is at stake. If Tuesday’s vote goes against Pavlidis and he continues to refuse to resign then it seems certain that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who can only count on a one-seat majority, will call a snap poll. In such an event, the general election is likely to be held on June 7, the same day as elections for the European Parliament. However, the government’s hopes that the vote will not lead to further action were boosted yesterday when LAOS leader Giorgos Karatzaferis indicated that his 10 MPs would not cast their ballot in favor of prosecuting Pavlidis. «The human factor indicates that some under-the-table deal took place,» he said. «The legal factor cannot prove this and the political factor means that we cannot leave this issue pending. «I am not asking for elections because I believe that Greece should come before the interests of any particular person,» Karatzaferis added.