Elections balanced on knife edge

Campaigning for tomorrow’s local elections ended yesterday, with the government, opposition parties and voters still on tenterhooks over the possibility that Sunday’s result could trigger parliamentary elections. Prime Minister George Papandreou, who has said he may call a snap election if the outcome at the ballot box tomorrow indicates PASOK does not have a popular mandate, had a low-key meeting with independent candidate for Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis and took part in an discussion with young Greeks via the Internet. However, an interview he gave to Italian magazine Panorama reignited the debate over the significance of Sunday’s vote. «If the interest groups we hurt with our reforms say ‘enough’ and want to stop the changes taking place, then I have no option but to turn to the Greek people,» said Papandreou according to a transcript of the interview. PASOK members are hoping that a last-minute rally by the party’s voters will mean the prime minister can shelve plans for a general election. Papandreou has not stated publicly what kind of outcome would prompt him to go the polls but sources suggested that PASOK, which won the parliamentary elections last October by a 10 percent margin, is hoping to maintain a 5-7 percent difference over New Democracy. Another crucial factor will be the outcome of voting in the newly formed Attica region, one of 13 enlarged districts created by recent local administration reform. PASOK’s candidate, Attica Prefect Yiannis Sgouros, is up against New Democracy’s Vassilis Kikilias and independent Yiannis Dimaras, a former PASOK deputy who has been leading in the polls after campaigning solely on a platform opposed to the European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout. It is unlikely that any of the three will get the 50 percent needed to win outright. Instead, in all likelihood the two leading contenders will battle it out next Sunday. However, if Sgouros manages to edge Kikilias out of the runoff, PASOK may decide to present this as a victory that means general elections will not be needed. It seems certain, though, that runoffs will be needed in several of the 13 regions and some of the 325 municipalities where voting will take place, which may affect Papandreou’s thinking as to whether to call general elections in the wake of tomorrow’s vote.