Tension runs high ahead of polls

With just over a week to go until the local elections on November 7, Prime Minister George Papandreou continued yesterday to turn up the pressure on New Democracy and its leader Antonis Samaras. Papandreou, who suggested this week that he might call a snap election if PASOK fares badly at the ballots next Sunday, challenged Samaras to be honest about the positions he has recently adopted. The premier, speaking after a European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels, was commenting on Samaras’s appearance in the Belgian capital this week at the meeting of the European People’s Party, a grouping of Europe’s center-right parties. During his attendance, Samaras suggested that ND was supporting the government in the economic reforms it is carrying out. Although the conservatives have backed some reforms, such as the privatization of the Hellenic Railways Organization, they opposed the government’s decision to sign an emergency loan deal with the EU and the International Monetary Fund. In fact, Samaras has made the EU-IMF memorandum the central issue for the local polls. The conservatives hope they will profit from people voting against the memorandum and the austerity measures that have accompanied it. «Samaras should tell people abroad the same things he says domestically,» said Papandreou. Both Samaras and Papandreou are due to spend the next few days traveling around Greece in a bid to drum up support for their parties’ candidates. ND sources said that Samaras intends to avoid stoking talk of early general elections, as he wants to draw a clear distinction between himself and the way that Papandreou pressed former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to go to the polls when he was in power.

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