ATHENS – With the once-dominant PASOK Socialists fading fast, party leader Evangelos Venizelos is reportedly mulling whether to change its name to Democratic Alignment. to the chagrin of his predecessor, George Papandreou, whose father founded the movement four decades ago.
With bad blood between them, the two met to discuss the failing fortunes of the party, which is a junior partner in the coalition government headed by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, who made Venizelos Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in return for backing harsh austerity measures.
PASOK, under Papandreou, won the 2009 elections with 44 percent of the vote but after imposing big pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions on orders of international lenders it went out of favor and now is hovering around 3-5 percent support in surveys.
After gaining 8 percent in the European Parliament elections in May as part of a center-left alliance called Elia, or Olive Tree, Venizelos reportedly said he wants PASOK to become the Democratic Alignment although most of its voters have long fled, most to the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party.
Even though Venizelos has vilified Papandreou’s leadership and the two have openly bickered about what’s happened to the party. they sat down to talk. Venizelos described it, at least for public consumption, as “friendly and positive,” two words that haven’t been used about their relationship.
Kathimerini said that Papandreou stressed his disappointment with the government’s stance over the last few weeks in relation to its lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is pushing for more reforms as the last of 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in two bailouts is running out.
Papandreou was said to have expressed concern at the slow pace of reforms and that some measures adopted when he led the country are being dismantled. He was hounded out of office in November, 2011 after relentless protests, strikes and riots against austerity.
But the key disagreement is Venizelos’s plans for PASOK to take on a new form after both leaders went against its founding principles to support austerity.
After the meeting, Venizelos said in a statement that Papandreou “has some ideas” regarding PASOK that would be “taken into account.” Sources close to Papandreou said that he would soon send his proposals about PASOK’s future to Venizelos in writing.
Venizelos on Nov. 21 was due to meet former Premier Costas Simitis, the man who headed PASOK before both of them and who also has been upset about its disintegration.