Tough decisions for PM

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis enters one of his most crucial weeks as Greece’s leader since coming to power just over five years ago, as Parliament’s verdict on an investigation into one of his previous ministers could force him to call early elections. MPs are due to vote late tomorrow on whether former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis should face further action over his alleged role in the blackmail of a shipowner. Pavlidis denies forcing SAOS ferry firm owner Fotis Manousis to pay him bribes in order that Manousis be awarded state-subsidized contracts, but there is a possibility that deputies will vote to lift the Dodecanese MP’s immunity so that he can face a special court. For Pavlidis to be referred to the court would require the support of 151 of the 300 MPs. The government currently has 151 MPs, including Pavlidis. Also, it often counts on the support of the ousted Petros Tatoulis. New Democracy deputies have been told to vote according to their conscience. It would only take the votes of two conservative MPs to tip the balance against Pavlidis. Sources have said that, in such a case, Karamanlis would call a snap election, to be held on June 7, the same day that Greeks are due to go to the polls to vote in European parliamentary elections. However, with ND trailing in the opinion polls, Karamanlis also appears determined to purge his party’s ranks of any politicians who have been linked to corruption since the government came to power in 2004 in the hope of convincing the electorate that he wants to make a new start. If Pavlidis does not face any further action, Karamanlis may take unpopular steps to reduce Greece’s deficit, knowing that elections are not likely to take place until next year, when PASOK could force the country to go to the polls over the issue of who will be Greece’s next president. During a speech in the northern city of Kastoria yesterday, Karamanlis launched a direct attack on PASOK and its leader George Papandreou, accusing them of trying to polarize Greece and to «terrorize» the justice system.

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