Ministers ‘dodge’ PASOK campaign

As Prime Minister George Papandreou continued to tour the country in a bid to drum up support for PASOK’s candidates in Sunday’s local elections, there were rumblings in the Socialist party about the reluctance by some ministers to be seen publicly supporting the campaign. Papandreou yesterday visited Thessaloniki, where PASOK is backing independent candidate Yiannis Boutaris for the mayoral contest and former Socialist minister Markos Bolaris in the race to become Central Macedonia governor. Bolaris is up against the popular conservative Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis but PASOK is hopeful that their man will be able to force the New Democracy candidate into a second round, to be held on November 14. Sources within the party said that some members of the government were unhappy that Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos, a Thessaloniki MP and former rival of Papandreou’s for the party leadership, was in Bulgaria on official business yesterday rather than taking part in the election campaign. There has also been disquiet in the Socialist party about the absence of some other ministers from the campaign front line. Papandreou has said he could call general elections if the result on Sunday makes poor reading for PASOK, but government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis tried to dampen the election talk yesterday. «Let’s wait for the results and then we’ll see,» he said. Speaking at a rally for Vassilis Kikilias, ND’s candidate in the Attica region, conservative leader Antonis Samaras accused Papandreou of using the prospect of snap elections to pass the buck. «Maybe he is trying to escape; maybe he intends to quit,» said Samaras, who sent letters to ND’s 800,000 members, calling on them to support the party’s candidates.