Greece’s conservative prime minister Costas Karamanlis has asked the president to dissolve parliament, and has called a snap general election for September 16th. It is some six months earlier than he needed to go to the polls, and he may be seeking to cash in on healthy opinion polls, four percent growth, a public defict slashed by more than half in the last two years, and falling unemployment. The Socialist leader Georges Papandreou faces an uphill struggle to claw back Karamanlis’s lead. With the economy looking healthy he may plug away at a series of minor scandals, the government’s handling of bad summer fires, and the slowness of the government reforms demanded by the EU, notably on pensions.
Karamanlis is Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister. He came to power promising zero tolerance of corruption, but he is accused of making little headway. He must hope he does not suffer the fate of the last leader who went to the polls early. When Costa Simitis tried the same trick three years ago, 20 years of Socialist rule came to an end.