Papandreou plays consensus card

«Consensus but not any cost» seemed to be the government’s motto yesterday, as sources close to Prime Minister George Papandreou sought to play down the premier’s comments that PASOK would actively seek common ground with other parties on the issue of constitutional reform. Speaking on Tuesday at a conference organized by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, Papandreou had suggested that the government was prepared to go to great lengths to reach agreement with the opposition parties. «We are pursuing broad consensus,» said the prime minister. «We will exhaust every avenue of negotiation and we have no objection to agreeing to changes to the Constitution. «We have already said that there need to be significant changes to the Constitution.» Papandreou’s suggestion of making changes to the Greek Constitution seem a little premature, given that the Parliament sitting now would have to vote in favor of such changes so the next batch of MPs voted in at general elections could make the changes. However, it appears that the prime minister’s comments were more of an opening move in a bid to defuse the tension in the political system or to at least make the government appear to be open to the idea of increasing cooperation between at least the two main parties. New Democracy’s decision to campaign on a platform opposed to the European Union-International Monetary Fund memorandum had polarized the atmosphere before the local elections last month. Also its leader, Antonis Samaras, indicated recently that he has no intention of making any effort to reach consensus with PASOK on some issues. As such, Papandreou seems to think that he can steal a march on his rival by appearing more open to the idea of reaching across the political aisle. His aides played down the significance of the gesture, saying that seeking consensus is not an end in itself. They added that the government has nothing to gain from making empty gestures aimed at giving the impression of agreement between the parties when there is no basis for such cooperation. They said, for instance, that the prime minister has no intention of calling for a meeting of political leaders, as he did at the start of his premiership, when there was some agreement for dealing with corruption but which soon dissipated.

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