PM looks for a way back after election defeat

In his first Cabinet meeting since Sunday’s defeat to PASOK in the European Parliament elections, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday told his ministers that they have to work harder to win back voters but did not give any indication of when he might carry out a reshuffle. Karamanlis did not go into any specifics about the reasons for New Democracy’s defeat on Sunday but said that the government had to put right whatever «made citizens feel bitter.» Karamanlis did go as far as to rule out any cooperation with Giorgos Karatzaferis’s right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), which was the only party to gain votes compared to the 2004 election. Several New Democracy MPs have been suggesting that the two parties could work together but the Prime Minister made it clear that he wants this kind of talk to stop. The government’s plan to win back conservative voters who have drifted to LAOS means that a number of draft laws that have to do with public order will be given priority when Parliament comes out of its summer recess in September. This includes the bill introducing tougher sentences for people who commit crimes while covering their face. PASOK leader George Papandreou chaired a meeting of party officials who develop the Socialists’ economic policy and promptly accused Karamanlis of displaying arrogance in his reaction to the election result. «New Democracy’s stance in the face of the electoral result is arrogant. Nothing has changed,» he said. «I cannot see any chance of Costas Karamanlis making serious changes, just public relations moves that lack any depth.» Papandreou attributed PASOK’s win to the hard work that his party had put in and its stance on the economy. «We connected the state of the economy with the way that the state operates, its inequality and the lack of accountability,» he said.