PASOK and New Democracy battle for the undecided vote. More than 2,000 Greek Americans will travel to Greece
More than nine million Greeks go to the polls on Sunday, March 7th, to elect the government that will officiate the Summer Olympics in Athens. Twenty two parties are participating, but only 3 or 4 are expected be a part of the new parliament. The latest published polls, before the 15 day blackout required by law, show right wing New Democracy Party of Costas Karamanlis to enjoy a 3-4 points lead over the socialists of PASOK. The new president of the ruling party, former Foreign Minister George Papandreou helped mobilize the party members, but still remains to be seen if he will succeed to cover the distance.
The results of the March 7 general elections in Greece will be transmitted through the most advanced technological methods and through various pilot programmes. The ways, details and the new potential for the most speedy and reliable information to the citizens was presented in a joint press conference in Athens on Wednesday by representatives of four companies, namely Delta Singular, HP, Microsoft and Cisco Systems, who provide the techological infrastructure for the entire venture.
They jointly created one of the most modern informatics systems in Europe, with equipment amounting to one million dollars by each company, which will enable citizens to have immediate electronic access to the results. The transmission of the results through the Internet, written messages, smartPhones and portable computers are among the means on offer for the first time to Greek citizens.
The polls give Communist Party (KKE) 5,5%, will the Left Coalition shows strength around 3%, which is the limit for entering the parliament. More than two thousand Greek Americans are expected to travel to Greece, for Sunday’s election. Pasok’s chairman for US, Spyros Garifalis told GreekNews that more than 1.200 party followers from the New York Metropolitan area will travel to New York. While Nick Diamond from New Democracy said 500 party goers will travel.
On Thursday, the first televised debate of all major political party leaders in Greek history took place. Many Greek Americans watched the debate that was televised through the 4 Greek satellite channels. For more than two hours, 4 journalists “questioned” President of PASOK Mr. Giorgos Papandreou, President of New Democracy Mr. Costas Karamanlis, Secretary General of the KKE Mrs. Aleka Papariga, the Head of the Coalition of the Radical Left Mr. Constantopoulos, and the President of DIKKI Mr. Dimitris Tsovolas, regarding social policy, national issues, the economy, public administration, and education, in a discussion the main characteristics of which were low tones and strict adherence to the time limits, in both questions and answers. The five thematic section discussions were followed by the questions by the journalists, and the positions of the political leaders.
The tone of the debate was low. Mr. Papandreou asked that people vote for PASOK so that it can continue its work, Mr. Karamanlis that political change be strengthened, and the leaders of the KKE, the Coalition, and DIKKI that the influence of the two major parties must be decreased. A dialogue was agreed upon for the institutionalization of similar discussions in the future.
At the very beginning of the discussion the coordinator, Mr. Hatzinikolaou, expressed hope a public dialogue after the elections, which could lead to, as it has done in other countries, the formation of an independent authority with the participation of politicians and journalists, which would set the terms and conditions for the televised dialogue of the political leaders.
In the discussion on the social policy, health and welfare sector, the President of PASOK stressed that among the Movement’s aims is “to bring a doctor close to every citizen”, while regarding the position held by Mr. Manos and Mr. Andrianopoulos in 1990, he replied that he disagrees with many of their positions, but will not label people. The President of New Democracy referred to the gains from the abolition of the prescription measure being proposed by his party, while regarding the securities issue, he committed that he would not raise the age limit or the charges. The Secretary General of the KKE was in favor of a free state health system and in favor of abolishing employee contributions for health, the Head of the Coalition of the Radical Left asked for the strengthening of a public health system and commitments for – among other things – a trilateral funding of securities, the eradication of uninsured employment and transparent administration of public funds. The President of DIKKI was in favor of a public national health system and a guaranteed social security system with trilateral participation.
The Cyprus issue was the main point of discussion in the foreign policy sector and all political leaders apart from Mr. Karamanlis were asked about the issue. Mr. Papandreou stressed that PASOK’s first concern in the next 4-year tenure would be the resolving of the issue, Mr. Constantopoulos underlined the need for harsh negotiations on the Annan proposal and noted that the Cyprus issue should not become an inter-community issue, while Mr. Tsovolas was in favor of resolving the issue base only on the UN resolutions from 1974 to this day, and repeated his opposition to the Annan proposal. Mrs. Papariga was asked about the KKE’s position regarding the accession of Cyprus to the EU, and she pointed out that her party did not vote against the accession, it voted against the enlargement of the EU. Mr. Karamanlis, regarding a the statement of a an ND candidate MP on the recognition of the “Turkish Minority” in Thrace, pointed out that it is not up to him to recognize the ethnic minority in the region, when the Lozanne Treaty mentions a religious minority.
As far as the economy is concerned, the President of PASOK made a commitment that it will be a priority of the Movement to improve the position of low pensioners and people with low incomes, while he stressed the need to attract new investments and further strengthen the economy. The President of New Democracy stressed the need to fight unemployment and strengthen investments, he made mention of the “crime” in the stock market during the 1999-2000 period and pointed out that there is a problem of major peripheral inequalities in Greece. The Secretary General of the KKE spoke of “wild capitalism” and said that Greece has developmental potential, which is however “mortgaged” by the EU. Mr. Constantopoulos characterized the financial policies of PASOK and ND as parallel and pointed out that the economy can handle providing further funds, if waste is battled and if social and ecological priorities are stressed. The President of DIKKI was in favor or redistributing the national income, while he referred to the stock market issue, criticizing the government, saying that it “robbed” its citizens.
Corruption in public administration and mainly local government was the main topic in the sector of public administration and government. Mr. Papandreou made a commitment to make every possible effort in dealing with the problem of corruption, while he also accepted the need for decentralization. Mr. Karamanlis expressed his concern on the issue of corruption and he said that if Greece does not deal with this issue institutionally, it has no future, while he raised his proposal for an independent authority for public works once again. Mrs. Papariga attributed the corruption problem to local government, to the absence of politicians, while Mr. Constantopoulos stressed the need for peripheral organization and control. Mr. Tsovolas underlined need for institutional intervention and preventive policies in order to deal with the problem of corruption in public administration.
Non-state universities were the “hot question” journalists asked political leaders regarding education. Mr. Papandreou was in favor of non-state universities and stated that we must escape from the uniformity of education and that there must be many options, Mr. Karamanlis underlined that attention must be paid to education infrastructure and to institutional changes in order to decrease the amount each family spends on education and was in favor of extending the institution of all day schools. Mrs. Papariga stated that there must be equality for all and that there must be no class borders in education and asked for 15% of the state budget to be directed to the sector. Mr. Constantopoulos asked for a drastic increase in funds for education, 12 years of obligatory education, the institution of general education secondary schools and free access to universities. The President of DIKKI was opposed to the creation of private non-profit universities, while he stressed that “education must be provided to all freely with no obstacles”.