Karamanlis vows to fight on

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that he has no plans to quit New Democracy if his party loses the October 4 election, while several high-ranking ministers denied they had any interest in succeeding him. Speculation is mounting that Karamanlis will step aside should ND lose by a large margin but he denied this in what was his last televised interview of the campaign. «You cannot measure this in percentages,» he said. «It is not just about percentages; it is about the overall feeling.» Karamanlis also rejected the suggestion that he would step down and seek a nomination as president of Greece next March. Both Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, tipped as possible successors to Karamanlis, said yesterday that they are not interested in challenging Karamanlis. The prime minister said that there was no way he would work with the ultra-right-wing LAOS party to form a coalition government if Sunday’s results allowed for it. He did, however, leave the door open to a coalition with PASOK. «In theory, it’s possible, if that’s what the people want,» he said. PASOK leader George Papandreou was also in a conciliatory mood, saying that he would seek consensus between political parties if he is elected prime minister on Sunday. Papandreou continued to call for the electorate to give his party the parliamentary majority it needs to form a government on its own but said that he would extend «an invitation of unity» to the other parties if PASOK gets into office. «The country needs a government with a strong public mandate,» said Papandreou. «We need a stable government that is prepared to roll up its sleeves and help the country change direction.» The Socialist leader said that his is prepared to bear «any cost» to meet head on «any attitudes or vested interests that are holding Greece back.» The party’s spokesman, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, drew attention to the issue of the economy, and appeared to question how reliable the government’s figures actually are on a range of indicators, including the public deficit. Papaconstantinou also pledged that if elected, a PASOK government would overhaul the system of internships in the public sector, known by the French term «stage.» The issue of these internships has become a dominant theme of this campaign, as the government has been accused of using it to look after New Democracy supporters and their children.