Minister of the Interior Costas Skandalidis presented further clarifications concerning the new electoral law and pointed out that the government is open to dialogue on when the law would come into effect. Mr. Skandalidis invited all political parties to such a dialogue in September and added that the government intends to submit the bill to parliament by the end of October.
Under the proposed new system, up to 80 pe cent or 240 seats in the House will be distributed among the parties that collect the 3 percent minimum required to enter Parliament, based on their nationwide share of the vote, while the remaining 20 percent will be divided between the first and second parties so that there can be a governmental majority.
The proposed law also introduces a split-vote system, with voters casting two separate ballots in different ballot boxes, one for the party of their choice and one for individual MPs.
Another important change is the abolition of an article that forbids parties from forming alliances prior to elections.
Skandalidis said the government wished to begin dialogue with the other parties on the proposals at the beginning of September and had for this reason kept several of them open for discussion.
Among those kept open were a proposal to reduce the number of large electoral districts from the current thirteen to nine or ten and to increase the number of smaller electoral districts. Also left open are the precise percentage of proportional representation, with 80 percent recommended, the election of MPs from a list for large electoral districts, and the time that the new law will go into effect.
The prime minister stressed that the proposals will be an object of dialogue and called parties to participate in it with a sense of responsibility. He also noted that the date when the new electoral system would come into effect would also be an object of the dialogue. He proposed that the new electoral system be implemented after 2005, in order for it not to be connected to the election of the president of the republic.
He also added that in the framework of the dialogue, the new structure of the electoral districts, the selection of the districts to be broken up, and the possibility to elect a number of MPs in major districts without individual votes would also be examined.
In fact, he underscored that the government’s proposals were decided upon with the real representation of popular will, the securing of governmental stability and the guarantee of transparency in mind.
In response to opposition criticism, he pointed out that the proposals have no hidden micro-party relations.
“The electoral law changes which are being proposed will, in any case, come into effect after 2005 so there is no involvement with the election of a president,” Foreign Minister George Papandreou said after talks with Simitis. He said the proposals unveiled by the prime minister on Thursday would make the electoral law more representative, making it more difficult for a winning party to form a government on its own and thereby encouraging coalitions.
Karamanlis rules out dialogue
The president of the New Democracy party, Konstantinos Karamanlis, from Lefkada ruled out a pre-election discussion on the electoral law and noted the issue had closed for New Democracy. Mr. Karamanlis spoke of a parody, games and disorienting approaches, and stressed that the government’s tricks do not concern the citizens who have other problems to deal with, such as corruption, poverty, price increases, education, insecurity and the broadening of social and regional inequalities.
Karamanlis repeated that the only solution for the country is early elections, since, as he stressed, the country could not take a nine-month extension of the pre-electoral period that has been declared by the government.
Only if the proposal were backed by a two-thirds majority in parliament could it come into effect in the next elections. Karamanlis reiterated his opposition yesterday, saying the changes were PASOK’s concession of defeat. Communist Party General Secretary Aleka Papariga, Left Coalition Chairman Nikos Constantopoulos and Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas all rejected the invitation to a dialogue.
On the stock market
Prime Minister Simitis will issue a written request for the opening of the stock market codes of PASOK’s MPs on Tuesday. The investigation of stock market transactions of PASOK’s MPs will be for the period 1997-2002 and not 1998-2000 as it was previously announced.