Greece going to snap polls
Greece’s Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday called early elections two years before his term in office was due to end.
The move came in the wake of fierce criticism of the government’s handling of devastating forest fires in Athens, and a series of scandals.
In a televised address to the nation, the conservative leader told Greeks that the poll, tipped for October 4, was imperative if Greece was to successfully emerge from the global economic slump.
“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 said.
He said he had decided to seek a new mandate to move ahead with painful economic measures and unpopular but much-needed structural reforms.
“The present political climate is not suitable [to do that],” he insisted. “It would be irresponsible to take the country through a long and costly pre-election period,” he added, referring to the inevitability of elections next March, after the refusal of the socialist opposition to endorse the re-election of Greece’s president, Karolos Papoulias.
With the ruling New Democrats trailing in the polls by up to six percentage points, political commentators said Karamanlis’s move was “political suicide”.
The Greek Prime Minister met with the Greek President, Karolos Papoulias, on Thursday where he announced the date for the early elections and that the Greek parliament will be dissolved today (Monday).
Papandreou calls for 'new beginning'
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou greeted the call of the election by charging that the Karamanlis government has collapsed "under the weight of the impasses it created".
Papandreou also said the current government has twice won voters' trust and a government mandate but never honored that mandate, charging that it alone bears responsibility for what he called the "deep crisis that the country is facing".
"Our proposal for the future of Greece is built on a grand vision, one that we can all turn into reality, together ... we have the knowledge, we have the political volition; we know the problems and we have proposed feasible solutions, ones that are just and respect the lives and hopes of the Greek people..." he said, speaking from PASOK headquarters in downtown Athens.
Among others, he said PASOK has a development plan and a way-out of the economic crisis, pointedly adding that "we have the power and boldness to clash with every establishment that keeps our country bound."
Parties react to snap election
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said that the elections were taking place because the Karamanlis government had aggravated the economic crisis.
"The country's plutocracy, the businesspeople and, of course, both their parties, New Democracy and PASOK, are aiming from these elections, each for itself, the emergence of a strong government, a government capable of providing a breakthrough, not for the people, but for the unimpeded profit-making of capital. A government capable of taking new, more barbaric, more savage measures against the working people, at the expense of working people," she said.
Papariga further said that "we must spoil their plans and early elections are a good opportunity. Neither ND nor PASOK are in a position to take measures for the people's benefit, they do not want, they cannot, and in this sense the only hope that the people have is to spoil their plans, to condemn both, to weaken them and bring the people, the popular movement a step forward, in a position of attack to confront the new storm that is coming."
Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras said "the only response to the crisis is a liberal programme that will build a shield of solidarity and social protection.
"The Karamanlis government collapsed under the weight of its deadlocked policy," he said.
Finally, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis, commenting on the Prime Minister's address, said that "in a difficult situation the prime minister chose to escape. Fortunately, for the party and the country, reserves exist."
The election campaign formally starts today (Monday) in what promises to be a difficult campaign for the Karamanlis government.
In preparation for the election campaigning a cross-party committee will meet today (Monday) to decide how to allocate free broadcasting time amongst the political parties and other measures relating to the elections.
It is also customary during an election campaign to replace the interior and justice ministers by caretaker ministers, as well as the government spokesman, while the leave of all civil servants and local government staff involved in election preparations is cancelled and recruitment to the public sector suspended.
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