George Papandreou, leader of Greece's opposition socialist party Pasok.
All five of the latest opinion polls published in Greek media on the country’s October 4 2009 snap parliamentary elections saw George Papandreou’s opposition Pasok party still in the lead over incumbent prime minister Costas Karamanlis’s New Democracy party, with one poll suggesting that Papandreou would get enough seats to form a government with no need for a coalition.
Pasok won more seats than New Democracy in Greece’s European Parliament elections, and opinion surveys consistently have given it the lead over Karamanlis’s party – even though three of the five polls released on September 13, while giving Pasok the majority, said that those polled preferred to see Karamanlis continue as prime minister.
The key issue in the election is the economy, with Karamanlis having acknowledged this when he called the election as a request for a mandate to push through reforms, and Papandreou has unveiled his plan.
Papandreou said that a government led by him would in its first 100 days in office put through five bills.
These bills would increase public sector salaries and pensions, give a "solidarity" payment to the poor, introduce progressive taxation scheme for all wage-earners, protect people with bank loans, would make provision for loans to be given to SMEs at favourable rates, simply taxation, reduce the red tape required to start a company, and address the impact of the economic crisis on employment.
Papandreou has also pledged to move against the high salaries paid to executives, to tax major property holdings, including properties held by the Orthodox Church of Greece, to tax offshore companies and large inheritances; and to abolish numerous state agencies and entities to reduce public spending, as well as putting a price freeze on tariffs of state utilities and increasing public investment in education to four per cent of GDP.
He foresees agreeing with labour and business on a "social pact" to revive Greece’s economy, which has been sent into reverse by the global economic crisis.
At the same time, Papandreou has pledged to increase spending on environmental protection, and according to a September 14 report by Bulgarian news agency Focus, quoting Greek newspaper Etnos, to renegotiate the agreement on the Bourgas–Alexandroupolis pipeline.
The pipeline project served the interests of third countries but not Greece, he was quoted as saying. "Our government has started the project on the pipeline. We wish it to continue but this does not mean we will stop negotiating," Papandreou said.
He said that Pasok opposed plans to privatise Greece's second-biggest water utility, EYATH.
Pushing ahead with privatisation has been a key part of the platform of New Democracy, which hit back at Papandreou by describing his plans for the economy and over-ambitious, unsustainable and unrealistic, and sure to mean that Greece would have to borrow billions of euro to implement them.
Karamanlis, in an interview with leading Greek daily Kathimerini published on September 13, said that Papandreou’s plans amounted to "unattainable promises…and unrealistic handouts in every direction". A New Democracy spokesperson said that the Papandreou proposals were vague and contradictory.