PASOK ‘in line with constitution’

Another eminent constitutional expert has waded into the argument over whether PASOK is going against the letter and spirit of the law by declaring its intentions to force general elections next March, when MPs have to vote on whether Karolos Papoulias should continue as Greece’s President. In an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Nikos Alivizatos, a constitutional lawyer and professor at the University of Athens, rejected the claims of other experts who have suggested that PASOK is breaching the constitution by saying that although it supports Papoulias, it intends to vote against him in order to force the government to call a national poll. «PASOK does not challenge the letter of the constitution, because no provision forces deputies to take part in a vote if they do not want to,» Alivizatos said. «Also, they are not obliged to vote for or not to vote for a specific candidate.» The constitution stipulates that two-thirds of the House (200 MPs) must vote for the candidate, otherwise a third round is held in which three-fifths of deputies (180 MPs) must back the government’s nominee. If no agreement can be reached, Parliament is dissolved and the country goes to the polls. PASOK has stated its intention not to vote for Papoulias, knowing that this will force elections but to then nominate him if it wins at the polls. «PASOK’s decision does not violate the spirit of the constitution either, because since 1986, when the right to dissolve Parliament was removed from the president, the opposition’s veto in the election of the country’s highest political figure is the only counterbalance to prevent power being concentrated in the hands of the prime minister,» said Alivizatos. The professor, who briefly served as Interior Minister in a PASOK government in 2004, accepted that the Socialist party has adopted a high-risk strategy. «PASOK is taking a big political risk and if this does not come off, it will pay a high political price.»