New Greek government sets 100-day challenge

Last Updated: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 16:35

Athens: Greece`s new socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday pieced together a team to launch a 100-day programme to rescue the economy after his election triumph.
Papandreou`s socialist Pasok party swept the ruling conservative New Democracy party out of office in a snap election on Sunday. With nearly all votes counted, Pasok had 44 percent of the vote against New Democracy`s 33.5 percent.

The American-born Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were also prime ministers of Greece, is to be invited by President Karolos Papoulias to form a government on Monday and name his ministers on Tuesday.

The new leader has vowed to immediately launch into a 100-day plan to boost the crisis stricken economy by creating jobs and cleaning up public finances. He has promised new laws to redistribute income to the poor, boost public investment and clamp down on corruption.

Part of the stimulus will be to order salary and pension hikes above the rate of inflation in 2010.

"I will always be honest with the Greek people," he said in a victory speech.

"I know this country`s great potential well, the powers that suffocate under corruption, nepotism, lawlessness and waste.

"We can free these powers and we will," he added.

"I pledge to make every effort to persuade Greeks that we can achieve this."

Buoyed by many years of annual growth of about four percent, Greece`s growth is now near zero.

Its public debt, one of the highest in the European Union, is set to exceed 100 percent of gross domestic product this year, and the EU placed the country under supervision in April over its excessive budget deficit and Papandreou will have to negotiate a new financial pact with the European Commission.

The socialists are expected to have 160 deputies in the 300-seat Parliament.

Greek newspapers highlighted similarities to the stunning victory Papandreou`s father Andreas won in 1981 to bring the fledgling Pasok party to power for the first time.

"For the first time since 1981 the gap with New Democracy neared double digits," said Ethnos daily.

"The country`s electoral map was radically changed with a number of New Democracy`s electoral strongholds falling to the socialists," it said.

Outgoing prime minister Costas Karamanlis immediately announced his resignation as leader of New Democracy which had been hit by a series of scandals and rule with a one seat majority for the past year.

"I assume responsibility for the result and will launch procedures for the election of a new party leader," he said in a televised address.

Karamanlis, 53, took power in 2004 with similar promises to clean up graft and promote transparency but top ministers were implicated in some of the scandals.

"The outgoing prime minister`s failings should serve as a lesson to George Papandreou and his cadres," Eleftherotypia daily warned.

"Papandreou takes over the premiership at a particularly critical time for the country. Reliability, transparency and the restoration of citizens` trust towards the state are needed above all."

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 16:35

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