Parties mull election implications

The implications of Sunday’s European Parliament elections became clearer yesterday, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis pondered his next move following his first defeat at the polls to PASOK leader George Papandreou, although the results also gave the Socialists plenty of food for thought. The final confirmed results had PASOK 4.3 percent ahead of New Democracy (36.6 to 32.3), but the fact that only 52.6 percent of almost 10 million eligible voters cast their ballots meant that it was difficult for either party to read too much into the numbers when considering what might happen in the next general election. Although PASOK won, it attracted 195,000 fewer voters than in the European elections five years ago and 849,000 fewer than in the general elections of 2007. The low turnout also affected ND dramatically. Almost one in two voters that supported the conservatives two years ago failed to back them this time. Almost 1 million fewer people voted for the government on Sunday than in 2004. Karamanlis commented on the record abstention in his speech in the early hours of yesterday morning. «It is clear that a lot of New Democracy voters chose to protest by sending us a message, mainly through abstention,» he said, promising a government that would be speedier, more decisive and effective. Papandreou did not make reference to the stay-away vote in his speech and PASOK sources said that the party was trying to make sense of the low turnout yesterday, while not getting carried away with its victory. Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who headed PASOK’s list of potential MEPs, said many ND supporters stayed at home because «they did not feel ready to vote for another party but wanted to protest by abstaining.» He argued that PASOK voters abstained because the opinion polls before the election had predicted a comfortable victory for the Socialists so they did not feel compelled to cast their ballots. The prime minister met with close aides yesterday in a bid to digest the results and sources indicated that he would soon decide on a series of moves aimed at rebuilding faith in his government. These are likely to include tackling illegal immigration and boosting public order, both of which are issues where the conservatives lost votes to the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), which was the only parliamentary party to see its support rise. It attracted 162,000 voters in the March 2004 general election, but on Sunday 367,000 people voted for the nationalists.