Published July 15th 2003 in A clash before elections

PASOK, ND spar over how polls will be held, when they are held

The government and main opposition party yesterday kept up their disagreement over proposed changes to the electoral law, with New Democracy rejecting outright any change to the system.

With elections at most 10 months away, the last couple of weeks have been dominated by the PASOK government's call for a dialogue aimed at achieving an electoral system closer to simple proportional representation. The conservatives fear this is just an effort to deprive them of victory as they are leading in opinion polls.

"The pre-election tricks of the government are PASOK's confession of defeat in the next elections and New Democracy will not take part and will not grant legitimacy to the opportunistic discussion regarding the electoral law. We are prepared for elections at any moment and we challenge the prime minister to go to the polls as soon as possible," New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said yesterday. "PASOK won three electoral victories with the current system and now suddenly it remembered the need dto change it," he told a Foreign Press Association luncheon. "No electoral system can thwart the will of the crushing majority of voters," he added.

Karamanlis, however, shrank back from a statement by his party's honorary chairman, former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, calling for early elections. "Elections must be held in the fall and not at the end of the (government's) four year mandate, because otherwise the country will have to hold general elections on May 2, 2004, followed by elections for the European Parliament two months later and the Olympic Games another two months later," Mitsotakis said in an interview with Athens's SKdAI radio. "A political leader who leads the country into such a situation must have no conscience," he said. Stressing that he was not proposing that the president do this, he said that the only way early elections could be held was if Prime Minister Costas Simitis called them or President Costis Stephanopoulos resigned. Karamanlis said he was "the last person who would tell Mr Stephanopoulos what to do."

The government charged Mitsotakis was undermining institutions. "In Greece we have political stability and it is a pity that a climate of instability is being cultivated," said spokesman Christos Protopappas. He accused Karamanlis of being "conservative" for opposing changes to the electoral law.