ND bids for last-minute turnaround

New Democracy will attempt to convince voters in the last few days of the election campaign that a vote for anyone other than the conservatives would be a vote for PASOK, sources said yesterday, as the two parties began to assess the impact of the televised debate between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Socialist leader George Papandreou. The two men are due to hit the campaign trail from tomorrow and sources indicate that the ruling conservatives will concentrate all their efforts on trying to persuade former ND supporters who are undecided to vote for the government again. This will involve both exposing Papandreou’s supposed leadership weaknesses while preventing a loss of support to the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Yiannis Loulis, the prime minister’s campaign adviser, believes that ND could still turn the election around, despite trailing PASOK by 6 percent, according to the most recent Public Issue opinion poll. He believes that the conservatives’ supporters have a «survival instinct» that will push them toward voting for ND at the eleventh hour. According to the most recent Public Issue poll, roughly one in three voters that backed ND in the 2007 election had yet to decide to again support the center-right party. No more opinion polls can be published before the October 4 polling date, according to electoral rules, but both ND and PASOK are conducting their own private surveys. The results of polls carried out in the wake of Tuesday’s debate should be known to party officials today. ND sources said that they were satisfied by Karamanlis’s performance in both debates this week, saying he had shown himself to be a more competent leader than Papandreou. PASOK sources said that there was also contentment within the Socialist party about Papandreou’s displays. The impact that the debates could have on the election result is the subject of some debate itself. Polls indicate that only one in four voters’ intentions are affected by the way that the televised discussions pan out. Just over 3 million people watched the first debate on Monday, which involved the leaders of the top six parties, while 2.9 million tuned in on Tuesday night to watch just Karamanlis and Papandreou battle it out.