Gov’t initiative on accountability

In a bid to reverse the negative climate that has engulfed the government since its defeat in European elections earlier this month, two ministers yesterday set in motion a process aimed at reviewing the law on the accountability of ministers. The move, aimed at convincing a skeptical public that the government is committed to fighting graft, came as the ruling New Democracy party continued to be dogged by speculation about the possible formation of a coalition with the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Justice Minister Nikos Dendias and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos attempted to lift the mood by asking Parliament to arrange for the committee that examines institutional and transparency matters to sit so it can examine the current law on ministerial accountability. The law, which requires Parliament to decide whether a minister or ex-minister should be prosecuted, has recently come against heavy criticism, especially after a slender majority in the House decided that no further action should be taken against former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis in connection with allegations that he had accepted bribes. Dendias and Pavlopoulos said that the thoughts of the opposition parties on the issue should also be taken into account. «Better late than never,» was the response from PASOK MP and former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos. The request of the two ministers also served as a temporary distraction from the incessant speculation since the European poll about whether the ruling conservatives will join forces with LAOS at the next general election. The rumors are partly being cultivated by LAOS, but maverick conservative MP Yiannis Manolis, who wrote a private letter to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday, became the latest ruling party lawmaker to suggest that common ground between the two parties could be found. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros refused to comment on Manolis’s assertion that politicians from LAOS and ND who were not tainted by corruption could come together to form a new center-right party.