NEWS

PASOK worries hound premier

Prime Minister George Papandreou has escaped Athens for a few days so that he can host a meeting of economists and opinion leaders on the island of Poros, but it seems that he cannot escape the anxiety that is building up within the ruling PASOK party. The Socialists seem on edge following a suggestion by Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis that the government might need fresh legitimacy, sparking a new round of speculation about early elections. They are also apprehensive about upcoming reforms of public servants’ social security benefits and the payment of hospital debts. Some PASOK deputies have already threatened to vote against the measures. Sources said Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos is trying to coordinate and speed up the actions of the ministers concerned, amid fears of deep rifts developing within the ruling party. Some PASOK lawmakers could not conceal their anger at Kastanidis’s inference that Papandreou should call a snap election to renew the Socialists’s mandate. «The holding of elections would be a crime against the country,» said Miltiades Papaioannou. «The country does not need elections, it needs a government that can handle emergency situations,» said Ektoras Nasiokas. «People feel that there is no clear and comprehensive plan to exit the crisis.» Papandreou is unlikely to tackle the problem until he returns from Poros, where he is hosting the Symi Symposium. He is due back in Athens tomorrow or on Thursday. Speaking at the 13th edition of the event yesterday, Papandreou identified some of the factors he believes have caused the crisis in Greece and other parts of the world: «the major lack of transparency that existed in the financial system, the lack of democratic controls, the inequality that exists in the world and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people.»