Greek PM calls election after delivering on cutbacks

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The Independent Online

The Greek Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, yesterday called a general election for 6 May, after his coalition government pushed through landmark financial-relief deals that rescued the country from the threat of bankruptcy and doomed recession-hit Greeks to greater hardship.

"The main goals of our government were achieved," Mr Papademos told a cabinet meeting, according to a government transcript. "I propose... that elections are held on 6 May."

Mr Papademos will meet later with President Karolos Papoulias to make the formal request for the election, 18 months before parliament's current term expires.

Mr Papademos, a former Vice-President of the European Central Bank, was appointed Prime Minister in November and spent five months pushing through harsh austerity measures to secure a vital international bailout and a major debt-relief deal with banks.

Opposition conservatives reached the power-sharing agreement with the majority Socialist Pasok party in November after parliamentary opposition to austerity measures brought the previous government of Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou to the brink of collapse.

The two traditionally dominant parties have seen their popular support hammered as Greeks endure a fifth year of recession and suffer repeated rounds of wage and benefit cuts as the unemployment rate surged to 21 per cent.

The conservative New Democracy party, led by former Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras, is leading in the opinion polls for the next election. But the polls suggest it will fall short of winning.