NEWS

ND hope for Pavlidis vote

New Democracy appeared hopeful yesterday that Monday’s vote in Parliament, on whether to indict former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis, will not trigger early national elections and possibly the demise of this government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Government sources told Kathimerini that the overwhelming view is that Karamanlis will not be forced into a corner, either because Pavlidis will not be indicted or, should he be, the Dodecanese MP will resign, allowing the premier to replace him with another conservative candidate and maintain the party’s one-seat majority in Parliament. This optimism is largely based on the fact that, although some ND deputies are not willing to support Pavlidis, they will not go as far as voting to have his immunity from prosecution lifted. Instead, the government seems to believe that they will cast blank ballots, which means that the 151 votes needed to indict the ex-minister will not be garnered. This is clearly a high-risk strategy and sources said that, despite its confidence in the outcome of Monday’s vote, the government is making contingency plans so that, should Pavlidis be indicted, the premier could call a snap election to be held on June 7, the same day that Greeks are due to vote in European parliamentary elections. Pavlidis’s speech before the 300 MPs are to cast their ballots could be a crucial factor in the vote’s outcome. There was speculation yesterday that the former minister would hit out at the government in an apparent move to take some conservatives with him if he is brought down. He has so far resisted all calls to resign, insisting he did not demand bribes from shipowner Fotis Manousis in return for a state-subsidized contract. Government sources have said that, should double elections not be required on June 7, then New Democracy will aim to ensure that it does not lose the European vote to PASOK by a big difference. The conservatives seem content to settle for a result that would see them trail the Socialists by about 3 percent, which would give them the chance to mount a comeback before any general election.