The Greek Press Today
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18 August, 2007
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday called on President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and formally asked him to declare general elections on Sept. 16, as he later cited the need for a new mandate to push through reforms, an important state budget for 2008 and constitution revisions.
The Greek prime minister, in a nationally televised address, said the next draft budget - usually tabled in the late autumn - will be elevated to the status of a "national priority", thus the need for a new mandate from voters.
Moreover, he said several reforms outlined by his government in the recent period will be brought before Parliament immediately for ratification.
"Three and a half years ago you gave us the mandate to extricate the country from the economic deadlocks and to create conditions for a better life. Together, we proceeded with a substantial effort, not everything was corrected, however, steps were taken and we made significant reforms," Karamanlis said during his address.
As progress, he cited rapid economic growth, a drop in unemployment, from 11.8 percent to 8 percent, rising exports and improved competitiveness.
"We are determined to proceed," he stressed, adding that he has absolute faith in the people, "who will judge and decide who can better guarantee the country's future."
Earlier, Karamanlis called on Papoulias immediately after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at noon, where he explained that the specific date had been chosen so that "the new government will have ample time to draft the (2008) budget and for the revision of the constitution to commence promptly".
During its term in office, the ND government achieved solutions to long-standing problems and critical outstanding issues, it rid the country of the dangers of fiscal derailment, it ensured the foundations and delineated the priorities for the changes demanded by the citizens, for the changes that guarantee the prospect of a better life, particularly for the financially weaker, he said.
The premier stressed that the revision of the Constitution was also an issue of major importance, particularly with respect to the reinforcement of transparency in public life, the further strengthening of the independence and effectiveness of justice, as well as the expansion of the prospects of education through revision of Article 16 of the Constitution.
In a brief appraisal of his government's term in office, Karamanlis stressed that the state of the economy ND took over from the preceding government had been "much worse" than the PASOK government had claimed, which reflected "the irresponsibility of the governments of the past".
Karamanlis said the "heavy legacy of the past" posed difficulties for the reforms that were necessary.
Most of the ministers will remain in their posts following the formal declaration of elections, with only the minister of state and the minister of the interior being replaced in the run-up to the elections, as had been the case in previous elections.
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Friday welcomed the news of a snap election on Sept. 16, in a brief televised statement from his party's downtown Athens headquarters.
"Finally, the end: in 29 days Greece will change page. On Sept. 17 the new PASOK government gets down to work. Not one day can be wasted after four lost years under New Democracy," the former foreign minister said.
In repeating his long-standing criticism of the government, Papandreou said he has toured every corner of the country over the past four years and "witnessed the disappointment in the faces of Greeks due to the Karamanlis government. I saw their expectations transformed into unfulfilled promises. In their faces I witnessed the insecurity created by the Karamanlis government, with income being lost high costs of living, inflation, young people's unemployment, (poor) work conditions, the cost of education and health, privileges for the few and burdens for the many."
Additionally, Papandreou said PASOK will enter the coming elections with its renewed programme as a guide, with self-confidence, and a certainty that Greece has prospects and abilities, with trust in Hellenism.
"We are commencing to close the gaps of inequity opened by the Karamanlis government, with a fair redistribution of income, to give the Greek citizen confidence, hope and a vision," he said.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said Friday that a "new page can and must be written in the Sept. 16 elections", stressing the importance of the vote in the upcoming elections and the need for strengthening her party, in contrast with the two mainstream parties -- ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK -- which she said must be weakened.
She said elections could mark "a new beginning for averting the worse that is coming" and to achieve some absolutely necessary gains, and also be a new step towards the people's victory.
The KKE leader said that the working people bore no blame for the deficits and the debts, for which the plutocracy and the governments that serve it were exclusively responsible. The working people must not accept any sacrifice, or the "dangerous slogan of national unanimity", all the more so when they are the objects of "poorhouse promises" and state business "philanthropy".
She said the discussion on the pretexts being cited for the early call for elections were of no value, as for the past 30 years elections, as a rule, have been carried out earlier than the full term.
Papariga further said that ND and PASOK must suffer "measurable losses", adding that there must be a weak govern-ment and a weak opposition so that they would not feel that they had the people "in their pocket".
Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos on Friday stressed that the Coalition-led radical left coalition movement, better known by the acronym Syriza, (SYRIZA), was heading to elections with mixed feelings.
"We are happy because we have a wealth of work with results, strong movements behind us throughout all these years, and we also feel sadness and pessimism because the elections are taking place on a backdrop of destruction for the entire country," referring to Thursday's devastating fire on Mt. Penteli.
Alavanos said his party would speak openly and honestly to the Greek people throughout the campaign period, adding: "It is a pathetic pretext that ND is calling early general elections, saying it was doing so for national reasons. The national reasons are cause from its own policy, in other words the reforms. In this way it is putting in an awkward position the President of the Republic, who is obliged to accept their lies".
He said it was also a "major pretext, as well, on the part of the main opposition party that it demanded elections when constitutional revision was being voted on, so that it would not be present and not publicly express its position on the issue of private universities, a position opposed by a large section of its (PASOK) supporters".
Source: Athens News Agency