No sooner had Prime Minister George Papandreou finished defending his suggestion that a snap general election might be needed if PASOK does not get a mandate in Sunday’s local polls, than he was forced to come to the defence of Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos over claims that the government might seek to restructure Greece’s debt.

Papandreou, who ran a 10-kilometre race as part of the Athens Classic Marathon on the weekend had every reason to feel exhausted at the end of the week when he was criticized for raising the issue of early elections as the fate of the Greek economy still hangs in the balance.

However, speaking Saturday at a local election campaign rally in the capital, Papandreou insisted he was correct in responding to New Democracy’s tactic of making the November 7 vote about national rather than local issues by throwing down the gauntlet. “

We will be voting on and deciding whether our country will complete the great effort we have undertaken to save it or whether we abandon it in the middle and let our hard work and sacrifices go to waste,” he said. In an interview with the Real News weekly, Papandreou insisted he was not “bluffing or trying to escape problems” by challenging voters with the possibility that national elections could be held.

By Sunday the election talk took on an added dimension as ND called on Papandreou to sack Pangalos over comments that the government might consider restructuring its debt, which is an option that Papandreou insists is not on PASOK’s agenda.

“Debts exist to be restructured,” Pangalos told Sunday’s To Vima newspaper. “We may pursue it ourselves or the option may be offered to us and it could be in our interest to turn it down.” ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said Pangalos’s comments suggested that the real reason Papandreou hinted at snap elections was because he is considering a restructuring of Greek debt.

Although Papandreou did not respond personally, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis accused ND of developing “conspiracy theories” and insisted that the government is committed to sticking to the program to lead Greece out of its economic crisis.