ATHENS – Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, hounded out of office in 2011 by protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures he imposed, wants a new government to be forced and has suggested he will leave the PASOK Socialists party his father founded four decades ago to create a new movement in Greece.
The current coalition of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras and his partner, PASOK – under Evangelos Venizelos who was made Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister – is in jeopardy and could fall if it fails to elect a symbolic President for the country in balloting that begins Dec. 17.
If Samaras and PASOK, who together have 155 votes in the 300-member Parliament, don’t get their man, New Democracy Vice-President Stavros Dimas, elected, early national elections will be called with polls showing the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is opposed to austerity measures, is the lead.
It takes 200 votes in a first or second round to name a President, and 180 in a third. If that fails, Greeks will go to the polls in late January or early February to elect a new government.
But Papandreou, who has been locked in a duel with Venizelos and challenging his leadership, said even if a President is elected that Samaras should form a new government. Papandreou hinted he may form his own party if snap elections are called but his move has undermined PASOK, where he still has a loyal cadre of supporters.
Papandreou issued a six-page statement in which he expressed concern about the country’s political and economic situation, while criticizing the government and the opposition for failing to find common ground. Papandreou, who is still a sitting Member of Parliament, said he would vote for Dimas but wants to avoid early elections but still have a new goverment formed.
Papandreou insisted that if Dimas is elected a new “democratic and progressive” government should be formed afterward. His comment has been interpreted as a proposal for SYRIZA to be included in a coalition administration, which could force out PASOK just as Venizelos is also suggesting he will dissolve the once-dominant party to create a new center-left movement called Democratic Alignment.
With PASOK in disarray and floundering near 3-5 percent in polls after getting 44 percent in 2009 when Papandreou won, Venizelos had already attached himself to another new movement called To Potami (The River) in an desperate attempt to keep the Socialists from disappearing off the political radar screen.
Papandreou also rankled PASOK by sasying he wants a central political role if early elections are called. “If, unfortunately, there is not a positive outcome [to the presidential vote] and irresponsibility leads the country to national elections, we will all be called on to assume our responsibilities,” his statement said, interpreted to mean he may form his own party and further undercut PASOK.
Sources at PASOK told Kathimerini that Papandreou’s intervention appears to be an attempt to present himself as a conduit between the opposition and the government but that there is unlikely to be any interest in what he is offering because he’s out of power, marginalized and already repudiated by Greeks.
Venizelos shrugged off the talk as unimportant. “There is no such thing as inner-PASOK issues; there are only external issues about which we do not care,” he said, dismissing Papandreou out of hand as insignificant.
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