PM edges closer to October elections

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is set this week to challenge PASOK leader George Papandreou to back down on a range of issues, including next March’s presidential nomination, and could call a snap election when he gives his economic policy speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. It appears that Karamanlis will publicly address PASOK later this week in a bid to seek consensus on major political and economic issues and on the re-election of Karolos Papoulias as president next March. PASOK has so far said that it will oppose Papoulias’s nomination solely so that it can force elections, even though it plans to nominate Papoulias again if it wins at the polls. Sources said that if Karamanlis cannot obtain any guarantees from Papandreou that he will back down on the presidential election as well as on other key issues, he would send the country to the polls himself. October is being suggested as the most likely date. The prime minister has been advised that PASOK’s lead over New Democracy in opinion polls is about 3 percent, which is a lead that can be overturned. However, there is some resistance within New Democracy to the idea of autumn elections, as many conservative politicians fear that the government is headed for certain defeat and it would be better off taking some extra time to improve its image. An October election would most probably be preceded by a Cabinet reshuffle, as Karamanlis looks for a way to revive his government’s fortunes.