Planning for Euro elections begins

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to chair a meeting of top government officials today as he attempts to plan New Democracy’s strategy for the June 7 European parliamentary elections, but smaller parties complained yesterday that they are being prevented from getting TV airtime ahead of the vote. Karamanlis and several top ND officials, including Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, are due to hold talks today with the primary aim of deciding which candidates will be put on the conservatives’ ticket for the Euro polls. The selection is set to be a tricky process, as ND wants to pick some big names in the hope of attracting enough voters to ensure that the election is not an easy ride for PASOK. But Karamanlis also wants to avoid giving prominence to any conservative officials who have been linked to corruption in the past. Sources said that a couple of the candidates being considered to head up the New Democracy ticket are former Education Minister Marietta Giannakou and current Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis. Karamanlis is expected to play his part by making public appearances almost on a daily basis. However, as the government stepped up its preparations for next month’s election, the smaller parties contesting the vote complained that they are being excluded from valuable TV coverage. The newly founded centrist party, Drasi, and the Ecologist Greens, the latter of which is expected to do well at the polls, highlighted that a law passed by the then PASOK government in 2002 dictates that only the parties represented in Parliament are allowed free TV airtime, while the remaining groups are barred from even paying for campaign messages to be run by stations. Drasi figurehead Stefanos Manos accused the interior minister of not doing his job properly by failing to solve the problem.