PASOK endures, reforms go on

Prime Minister George Papandreou declared late last night that his government would continue with its reform efforts after partial official results from the first round of crucial local authority elections showed ruling PASOK to be leading in key regions, including Attica. In a live televised address delivered from the Maximos Mansion, Papandreou doused intense speculation about the possibility of early general elections being called, making it clear that his administration would continue with reforms aimed at reviving the debt-ridden economy and putting Greece on the path to repaying huge loans to its European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund. «Tomorrow we will continue to work toward the crucial goal of safeguarding the future of our country – a future that will allow us to control our own fate, free of any kind of supervision or stewardship,» Papandreou said. «I am not saying that things will be easy but there are no magic solutions either,» he said. Speculation about snap polls had peaked last week, after Papandreou raised the stakes of local authority elections, saying that they would constitute an opportunity for citizens to cast a vote of confidence in his government and its ongoing reform drive aimed at plugging a gaping budget deficit and getting the economy back on track. The Prime Minister had upped the ante after the main conservative opposition New Democracy declared that the polls would act as referendum on the austerity measures pushed through by the government in exchange for 110 billion euros in loan guarantees. With 10 percent of vote counted, Singularlogic, the firm commissioned by the Interior Ministry to forecast the result of the polls, predicted that the ruling PASOK would win eight of the 13 races for the new post of regional governor, including Attica. Crete and Southern Aegean regions were expected to be resolved but the others were expected to go to a runoff next Sunday. PASOK made losses in some regions but this did not appear to particularly benefit ND, with the candidates of smaller parties and independents profiting instead. In Attica, PASOK’s candidate for regional governor, Yiannis Sgouros, was predicted to secure 23.8 percent of votes with ND’s Vassilis Kikilias getting 20.25 percent and Yiannis Dimaras, the former PASOK dissident running as an independent, seen as gaining 15.94 percent. Estimates regarding the results in the country’s 325 municipalities did not offer any major surprises, with most expected to be resolved in the runoff next week. In Athens, the incumbent conservative mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis was predicted to lead with 35.04 percent, with PASOK-backed independent Giorgos Kaminis getting 28.5 percent and Nikos Sofianos of the Communist Party (KKE) 13.22 percent. In Piraeus, PASOK’s candidate Yiannis Michas was expected to amass 29.7 percent of votes, the conservative Vassilis Michaloliakos to get 23.35 percent and the independent Petros Mantouvalos 18.56 percent. In Thessaloniki, Costas Gioulekas was predicted to garner 35.4 percent of votes, the PASOK-backed independent Yiannis Boutaris 33.1 percent and the KKE’s Sotirios Zarianopoulos 9.52 percent. Possibly the biggest surprise yesterday was the high level of abstentions – more than 40 percent of the electorate decided to stay home, compared to 29 percent in last October’s general elections.