ND looks for poll comfort at eleventh hour

Former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis was due to find out late last night if he will be indicted over corruption charges, which could have a disastrous impact on the government even though New Democracy sources indicated the mood within the conservative camp had been lifted by positive opinion poll results. MPs gathered in Parliament yesterday evening to decide whether Pavlidis, now a deputy representing the Dodecanese, should have his immunity from prosecution lifted and face a special court over allegations that he forced SAOS ferry firm owner Fotis Manousis to pay bribes in return for a state-subsidized contract to run ships to remote islands. A vote was due to take place at around 11 p.m. to decide Pavlidis’s fate. It would take 151 votes to oblige the ex-minister to appear before a special court. With Pavlidis not allowed to vote, it would take three conservative deputies or two plus independent MP Petros Tatoulis to vote against the former Aegean minister for further action to be taken. Main opposition PASOK yesterday asked Parliament to consider the recommendations of the opposition parties that Pavlidis should be tried for accepting bribes, money laundering and breach of duty and faith. If the Dodecanese MP were to be indicted, it could trigger early general elections as the government would be left without a majority in Parliament. However, there was newfound confidence within the government yesterday after the latest round of opinion polls appeared to show that ND is closing the gap built by PASOK in recent months. The conservatives were yesterday still hoping that they would be headed only for European Parliamentary elections on June 7 and not national polls as well. But the narrowing of the gap, in the wake of a much more active role being assumed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, provided ND with some hope that in the event of Euro elections alone, it will not lose by a great margin.

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