ND divided over way forward

Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos have emerged as key players in the government following New Democracy’s electoral defeat last Sunday and, according to sources, are both advising Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that he needs to freshen up the Cabinet in a bid to recover lost ground. Sources said yesterday that two camps have emerged within the government. Spiliotopoulos and Meimarakis, along with Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, an ND heavyweight, believe that new faces in the government and the party mechanism are needed to help the conservatives to move forward. Another camp, headed by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, apparently believes that changing personnel will not solve the government’s problems and that better policy coordination is needed. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros denied yesterday that the prime minister is thinking about conducting a reshuffle. However, many expect that in July there will be changes within ND. One of these will involve Meimarakis moving to a more central role that could involve reorganizing the party machinery. Spiliotopoulos, meanwhile, could be used in a role that involves more contact with the public and the media, as the government tries to improve its handling of public relations. Antonaros repeated denials that the conservatives are entertaining any thoughts of cooperation with Giorgos Karatzaferis’s Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) after its good showing in the European election. As expected, PASOK leader George Papandreou stepped up his attack on the government yesterday. «New Democracy continues to be caught up in its own problems,» he said at a meeting of his party’s political council. «It is totally incapable of absorbing the message from the elections and translating it into a change in policy,» said Papandreou.