Views split on president

The government attempted to capitalize yesterday on Greece’s foremost constitutional expert’s criticism of PASOK’s apparent intention to force general elections next March when the country will also have to decide who should be its next president. New Democracy pounced on comments made by a professor emeritus of constitutional law at Panteion University, Dimitris Tsatsos, in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini as evidence that PASOK was playing fast and loose with one of Greece’s most revered institutions just so it could return to power. «We have a president [Karolos Papoulias] who is carrying out his duties perfectly,» said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. «He is a president who is appreciated by citizens and who symbolizes the unity of Greece. There is no reason for second thoughts.» The government’s reaction to Tsatsos’s comments is intended to put pressure on PASOK not to proceed with its plans to oppose the nomination of Papoulias for a second term just so that the government would be forced to call elections. Under the Constitution, two-thirds of MPs have to support the nominee in the first two rounds of voting. If the vote reaches a third round, the support of three-fifths of the House, or 180 deputies, is needed. PASOK has indicated that, although it supports Papoulias’s nomination in principle, it will not vote in favor of the former Socialist foreign minister purely in order to force elections. «We are not prepared to take part in this ridiculing of our institutions by PASOK and its leader [George Papandreou],» said Antonaros. «We will not take institutional responsibility lessons from a government that called elections so it could pass a budget that never materialized… that withdraws deputies from Parliament when it sees it cannot win a vote… and which closed Parliament early so its politicians’ offenses could be expunged,» responded PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou. In the interview, Tsatsos urged parties not to make «a mockery» of the Constitution and said «the evocation of national interest cannot override the clear significance of the Constitution.»