Snap poll talk intensifies

An unexpected visit to a Citizen Service Center (KEP) by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday was taken by many commentators as a further indication that the premier may call a snap election this autumn. Karamanlis’s trip to the KEP in Ilioupoli, eastern Athens, where he announced the hiring of some 500 extra staff for such centers across Greece, was the latest prime-ministerial visit to a public service body, a tactic usually favored by governments in election campaigns. However, there are a number of other factors that have led to recent mounting speculation that Karamanlis will go to the polls in September or October. The announcement of a number of measures regarded as having a broad social appeal, such as the car scrappage scheme, financial incentives for old buildings to be upgraded into environmentally friendly homes and 250 million euros of subsidies for the self-employed to obtain new equipment, are seen by some as pre-election markers that have been thrown down by the government. The most telling sign that Karamanlis is considering the option of a snap poll is that the conservatives are trying to make as much as possible of PASOK’s intention to force a general election next March over the re-election of President Karolos Papoulias. The issue was brought up again yesterday by government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. The latter attempted to highlight apparent hypocrisy in the Socialists’ position, saying that in 2006 PASOK had proposed a change to the constitution so that a disagreement over the presidential candidate could not trigger national elections. According to government sources, the conservatives feel that PASOK’s insistence that it will force elections in March means Karamanlis can legitimately go to the polls before then with the argument that what would effectively be a protracted election campaign would be damaging for the country.