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Greece Preparing for National Election Sunday


Greeks are preparing to cast ballots on Sunday in the parliamentary elections overshadowed by last month's wildfires.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, leader of the ruling conservative New Democracy party, is seeking a second four-year term. His main rival is George Papandreou, leader of the socialist Pasok party.

Mr. Karamanlis faces a tough re-election battle in the September 16 elections, following catastrophic wildfires that raged for more than a week in September, killing 65 people and burning villages and forests. His critics accused Mr. Karamanlis of failing to live up to his responsibilities in helping Greece through the major crisis.

A tumultuous political campaign ended with mass rallies on Friday by the two major parties. The prime minister told tens of thousands of his supporters in Athens that he needs a clear victory in order to continue with his economic reforms.

Papandreou campaigned in the western city of Patras. He said the current government must go because it has not fulfilled its promise to tackle corruption. He also accused Mr. Karamanlis of mishandling last month's wildfire crisis.

Polls showed the government lost some support after the wildfire crisis, despite government monetary compensation to victims.

The current government was elected in 2004. Prime Minister Karamanlis's reforms have spurred economic growth, but unemployment, crime and corruption remain high.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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