PM appeals to voters as date set for elections

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday sought to present himself as the «responsible» choice to lead the country after securing the approval of President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve Parliament on Monday and pave the way for early elections on October 4. «The interests of the country dictated my decision to end the current political uncertainty,» Karamanlis said following talks with Papoulias, who said he hoped the premier’s move would «serve the interests of the people.» Although stressing that his decision was an act of «responsibility,» the premier made it clear that pressure exerted by the main opposition PASOK had forced his hand. «I do not have the right to allow the country to be dragged through a catastrophic pre-election atmosphere for six months,» he said. Prioritizing a crackdown on tax evasion and curbs on public spending, Karamanlis said he would provide further details of his plans for economic reform in his keynote speech tomorrow before the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), an annual political bellwether which now marks the launch of pre-election campaigning. Meanwhile, it was clear that New Democracy cadres had started rallying around the premier despite reports of widespread opposition within the ranks of ND to the prospect of early polls. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said there would be no issue of a change in ND’s leadership, even in the event of the ruling party’s defeat. And several other top ministers, including Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, called on other cadres to rally behind the premier. Sources told Kathimerini that ND’s cadres have two main goals: to weaken the profile of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and to avert a shift in support among ruling-party supporters toward far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Papandreou, for his part, heralded «a plan for national recovery, including the redistribution of wealth, rebuilding the state, revision of the growth model and restructuring of the political system.»