Greek premier gambles on early election

4th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The decision was met with scepticism by some, with others warning that the result could be a hung parliament.

Athens -- Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' call for early elections to push through "essential" economic measures got a sceptical response from some sections of the press Thursday.

And some observers warned that thanks to a new voting system, the result could be a hung parliament and a German style "grand coalition" of the two main parties after elections which are tipped to take place next month.

"We have to clarify the political landscape and proceed with a series of essential measures to emerge from the downturn," Karamanlis said in a televised address Wednesday.

"The year 2010 will be a difficult and decisive one, and so the Greek people must choose a government that can lead the country out of this crisis," he added.

But Georges Papandreou, the head of the socialist opposition PASOK, retorted: "The government has collapsed under the very dead end that it created."

People should vote for a "new departure", he said late Wednesday.

Opposition newspapers were similarly scathing Thursday, while welcoming Karamanlis's decision to put his head on the electoral block.

"I failed: but vote for me again," was the headline in the socialist daily Ta Nea, while another left-wing paper Eleftherotypia went with "Deserting the shipwreck."

At the other end of the political spectrum meanwhile, the neo-liberal Kathimerini was also critical.

"Mr. Karamanlis did not take the necessary (economic) decisions when he had a strong majority," it said.

That majority is down to just one vote after Karamanlis was forced to axe a lawmaker in a scandal over a property deal with the influential Vatopedi Monastery.

Some analysts pointed to the implications of a recent reform of the electoral law, which they said could lead to a period of political instability.

"It's not certain that a majority will emerge at the end of the elections and the winner may have to consider forming a minority government or a Germany-style coalition, which has never been seen before in Greek politics," said one senior European diplomat.

The date of the general election is expected to be announced after Karamanlis meets with President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday, although the news media is already speculating on a date of October 4.

Karamanlis, who first became premier in March 2004 and was re-elected in September 2007, has seen his popularity dwindle after a series of crises.

In December he faced criticism as rioting erupted nationwide over the police killing of an Athens teenager.

In June's European elections, his New Democracy Party garnered the second worst EU vote tally in its history.

Papandreou's socialists registered their first victory in five years.

News of the early election was welcomed by the socialists, who had been calling for them repeatedly.

Now Karamanlis also says the country cannot wait.

The most recent opinion polls suggest that PASOK leads the New Democracy conservatives by more than three percentage points.

Helene Colliopoulou/AFP/Expatica

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