Greece is preparing itself for up to a month of political campaigning following its prime minister’s decision to call and early election.
Costas Karamanlis is seeking a new mandate to deal with the country’s deep economic crisis. Elections were not due before 2011 but the opposition socialists would have forced a vote in March, pushing the prime minister to take a risky gamble now – as his conservative New Democracy party trails the opposition in the polls. Anouncing his decision, Karamanlis said in order to face the crisis he needed “a popular mandate with the right programme.” Sentiments shared by his main rival, Giorgios Papandreou, who responded by calling on Greeks to unity behind him as the country, he said, “needs to go forward and cannot wait.” The government faces a tough battle to be re-elected. Its stock, battered by the economic slowdown and scandals, took another hit last month after criticism of its response to forest fires near Athens.