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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-09-06
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Party leaders prepare for televised debate tonightThe leaders of Greece's top six political parties will tonight be called on to outdo each other before the cameras and convince the electorate to vote for them on September 16 in a three-hour televised debate broadcast by all channels that begins at 21:00 in the evening.
The six party presidents will be Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of the ruling New Democracy party, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis and Democratic Revival party leader Stelios Papathemelis.
The top six will each be called on to answer questions put by journalists Olga Tremi from MEGA channel, Elli Stai from Alpha, Nikos Hatzinikolaou from Alter, Nikos Evaggelatos of ANT1, Aimilios Liatsos from STAR channel and Alexis Papahelas from SKAI channel. The coordinator of the debate will be Maria Houkli from the state TV channel NET while the debate will take place at the state-run broadcaster ERT with an uplink to the other channels.
Each journalist will be able to put one question of up to 30 seconds in length to each party leader, as well as a 20 second question for clarifications, to which each leader will have 90 seconds in which to reply. There will be 36 questions and answers in total.
The subjects of the questions have also been divided in advance and fall into six categories: foreign policy, economy, public administration, social policy and general political issues.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of the party leaders' televised debate held at ERT in the run-up to the 2004 elections.
 Now is not the time for negative vote, PM saysPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis, speaking in his first election address in Keratsini on Wednesday evening, in the Second constituency of Piraeus where he is heading the ruling New Democracy party's election ticket, stressed that "now is not the time for a negative vote."
Karamanlis noted that "we are listening to and receiving the citizens' messages. The citizens have greater demands from us. I realise that bitterness does exist, but now is not the time for a negative vote. Denial only leads to deadlocks. What is required now are the positive steps that the country needs. What it needs now is a government that will be able to take decisions and to implement speedily and with determination the changes that the country is in need of."
The prime minister further said that "we are now on the final stretch towards the elections and now is the time of the citizens, of comparisons, of decision." He added that the country is at a crucial turning point and it is necessary that the reforms that the country needs must be continued with speedier rates and with greater boldness.
"In order for us to achieve progress and prosperity for all, we must proceed with even speedier rates, with greater boldness, with deeper changes," he said.
Referring to the recent wildfires in the country, Karamanlis said that "this national ordeal, our dead, the people who lost their homes and their property are burdening the soul of every Greek," stressing that this is the reason that "we must direct all our strength to the task of immediate support and reconstruction."
The prime minister pointed out that the government took immediate steps, sidestepping the bureaucratic inflexibilities of decades and that in only a few days the pressing needs of citizens were met. He added that all that was done after the harm is not enough and that a great and difficult task lies ahead.
"We are doing and we shall continue to do all in our power to enable local societies to be able to stand on their feet again, to enable young women and young men in the regions struck to stay in their places," Karamanlis said and stated that he felt confident that the prefectures affected by the ordeal will be able to be revived and to adopt a new growth model that will provide the production forces of these regions with the opportunity of forging ahead more dynamically.
He further said that in the years that passed the government laid the foundations for dynamic, balanced and sustainable growth focusing on man, adding that man was and always is the focal point of government policy.
Karamanlis said that the top priority in the second tenure that the government is seeking is further growth and the consolidation of a social state that will be capable of supporting those who are in real need.
He said that a National Social Cohesion Fund is being created immediately, families with three children will be receiving their large family bonus in early 2008, according to the government's commitments, the new increase in the unemployment benefit, in the EKAS bonus and in pensions of the Farmers Pension Fund (OGA) is being paid and a National Minimum Pension will be established.
Lastly, Karamanlis referred to the work accomplished by the government over the past 3.5 years it has been in power and speaking about the economy in particular, he underlined the decrease in the deficit, the creation of 200,000 new jobs and the restriction of unemployment.
 Papandreou speaks on women's problemsMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou outlined his party's proposals regarding problems faced by women during his address at an election rally in the Athens district of Peristeri Wednesday evening.
"We are in front of a crucial turning-point: either we let this unprecedented national tragedy we have gone through dissolve us, or we advance forward all together in an organised manner and with a plan towards national renaissance," Papandreou told his audience at Peristeri's indoor stadium.
He reiterated his call for a "new change" saying it was "a national demand".
"We must overturn the present state's incompetence in protecting the lives, property and homes of our fellow citizens, but to also overturn our country's denigration internationally through the irresponsible handlings of the New Democracy (ND) government," Papandreou said.
"On September 16, the commerce of hope comes to an end," the main opposition leader said, adding that the country "needs a new patriotism which does not only mean the defending of symbols but the securing of the new generations' future as well."
Referring to women's problems, the PASOK leader said that they "are today enjoying important gains and rights, as a result of the struggle waged by the women's movement, but also of the progressive institutional framework introduced by PASOK governments."
"Today, women are under the burden of the ND government policies," he claimed.
Papandreou said that his party's programme "gives solution to the issue of equality within the Greek family through the full financial coverage of baby sitting by doubling, within a 4-year period, the number of public nurseries, the extension of all-day schooling, the payment of a lump sum of 2,000 euros for each child born."
He also said that the PASOK programme foresees the decrease of family expenditures for education and health.
 KKE leader addresses workers in PiraeusThe working people have nothing to gain from Thursday's debate ahead of the September 16 general elections, nor could they, or should they, determine their stance from the image that the political party leaders presented during the televised debate, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said Wednesday morning, speaking to workers in Piraeus municipality.
Papariga stressed that the criterion for the vote to be case was "life, not words". "It (the criterion) is the everyday routine, the standard of living, work, income, pension, education, health, the natural, intellectual and cultural environment, it is Greece's policy in the Balkans, the Middle East, Europe and everywhere," she said.
Papariga said that in order to correctly weight the vote, the entire past 20 years must be examined.
"For 20 years now, the KKE has been steadily making the correct prognosis, contributing to the organisation of the struggles and, above all, believes that the right of the worker is the law. It is from this position that we face the problems of the working people and the other popular strata of the city and the countryside," she added.
 Alavanos highlights problems at Nikaia HospitalVisiting the Nikaia General Hospital on Wednesday, the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alekos Alavanos said the hospital was in "a pathological state".
He said his party was determined not to allow the last days before the general elections be dominated by fake handouts promised by the prime minister or main opposition PASOK's list of state deputies but would instead highlight social problems like the state of Nikaia Hospital, which was the largest in the Balkans.
Alavanos underlined that staff shortages at the hospital were currently at around 30 percent while its emergency room had not operated since the Olympic Games. He accused the government of abandoning the state health system.
Earlier, while touring facilities of the ISAP electric railway he criticised the government's handling of the crisis with the fires and accused it of now "attempting the largest and most sordid effort to buy votes seen in recent elections".
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