PM’s remark fuels poll talk

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued to keep his cards close to his chest yesterday as speculation about snap polls next month intensified and government sources indicated that the premier would most likely reveal his intentions within a matter of hours. The sole reference to elections Karamanlis made yesterday was indirect and the only thing it clarified was that he is gearing up for the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), an annual gathering of businessmen and political landmark event, which opens in the northern city this weekend. «Speculation about elections is harmful for the economy,» Karamanlis is said to have remarked during a meeting with officials of the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce in Athens. Many commentators interpreted this remark as confirmation of the premier’s intention to call early elections. But government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros rebuffed reporters’ suggestions: «I will not comment on hypothetical scenarios,» he said. Aides close to the premier yesterday also refused to comment on the nature and timing of Karamanlis’s plans. If Karamanlis does decide to call snap polls, his first step will be to meet with President Karolos Papoulias to ask him to dissolve Parliament so that the country can prepare for general elections. Sources indicated that the likeliest dates for early polls are October 4 or October 11. As confusion reigned in the ranks of the ruling party, the main opposition PASOK, which has surged ahead of conservative New Democracy in opinion polls, clinching a 6 percent lead, took the opportunity to reiterate its calls for change. «The country is not being governed,» said party leader George Papandreou, adding that «the only solution is general elections.» The PASOK leader said that citizens had «lost their patience» and that a mere reshuffle would «simply recycle the same weaknesses.»