PASOK low-key ahead of elections

PASOK tried yesterday to play down expectations of scoring notable victories in tomorrow’s second round of local elections, when voters will decided who takes control of 11 regions and more than 200 municipalities. Government sources tried to dampen suggestions from PASOK members earlier this week that the Socialists were confident they could win the vast majority of the remaining regions and some of the country’s key municipalities, such as Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. Having already secured control of two of a total of 13 municipalities, sources said that PASOK would be happy to see its candidates successful in a total of seven, so that it has a hold on at least one more region than New Democracy. Government sources were also letting it be known that PASOK is bracing for the possibility of losing the country’s three biggest municipalities. It appears that the Socialists are downplaying their chances of major success tomorrow on purpose, as they fear giving fodder to New Democracy, which would play up any government defeats as a growing tide against the austerity measures PASOK has adopted. In actual fact, it seems that the contests between PASOK- and ND-backed candidates in key regional and municipal seats is likely to be very close. In the first round, the two leading hopefuls in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki were only separated by a 4 to 6.5 percent difference. In contrast to the government, New Democracy attempted yesterday to stoke up support and expectations of a possible breakthrough. Party leader Antonis Samaras said that the second round was «the key political moment» of the elections. Samaras was in Peristeri, western Athens, yesterday in an effort to gain backing for ND’s candidate for Attica governor, Vassilis Kikilias. The former basketball player will attempt to beat PASOK’s Attica Prefect Yiannis Sgouros in what is expected to be close contest. In the City of Athens, conservative Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis is attempting to fend off the challenge of independent Giorgos Kaminis, who is backed by PASOK. In an apparent attempt to woo right-wing voters, Kaklamanis yesterday suggested that all illegal immigrants should be expelled from the country. «The immediate repatriation, through legal means, off all illegal migrants must be pursued,» he said.