NEWS

PM asks Greeks for ‘votes of hope’

In a live television address yesterday, Prime Minister George Papandreou reiterated his appeal to Greeks to use imminent local authority elections as an opportunity to reinforce his government’s effort to reform the debt-wracked economy by backing PASOK’s candidates but quashed speculation about the possibility of early elections being called in the event that the ruling Socialists suffer losses in key regions, as recent opinion polls have suggested. Speaking during a televised interview with reporters from seven channels, Papandreou said he was more concerned about the progress of deep-reaching reforms than his own «seat» as premier. «If we stop the process of change now, the sacrifices the Greek people have made so far will be lost and we will slide back into the past,» the premier said. In a clear reference to the outcome of recent polls indicating that a large section of Greeks are considering boycotting Socialist PASOK candidates on November 7 in protest at the government’s austerity measures, Papandreou issued an appeal that they reconsider. «I ask them not to cast a vote of protest but a vote of hope,» he said. Asked whether his government would implement more austerity measures, Papandreou reiterated that low-income workers and pensioners would be subject to no more cuts but said that his administration would continue to raise funding from a crackdown on high-level tax evasion. He also repeated that his government aimed to offer tax relief to workers on low incomes and pensioners as soon as possible. The premier insisted that PASOK has a plan for exiting the crisis. «2010 was the year we were forced to avoid bankruptcy; we achieved this, 2011 will be a crucial year for reforms; 2012 will be the year that growth will resume and 2013 will be the year we exit the memorandum,» Papandreou said, referring to Greece’s agreement with its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. Notwithstanding the game plan, however, Papandreou said that Greece was still in a state of emergency. «I want to be honest with the Greek people – the alert is not over,» the premier said.