ATHENS – PASOK Socialist chief Evangelos Venizelos found himself jeered during the party’s 40th anniversary meeting when he attended an event featuring his predecessor, George Papandreou.
Venizelos serves Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras as Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister in a coalition whose support for austerity has driven the Socialists almost out of existence, iring some dissidents in the party and Papandreou backers.
Papandreou won the 2009 elections with 44 percent of the vote but quit two years later, driven out of office by relentless protests, strikes and riots against pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions he imposed on orders of international lenders even though the measures were antithetical to the principles of the party co-founded by his late father and former Premier, Andreas Papandreou.
As PASOK held an anniversary celebration, the Andreas Papandreou Foundation was holding a gathering of its own at Zappeion Hall near Parliament and Venizelos – invited by George Papandreou – showed up.
As Venizelos took the podium, a group of about 150 people heckled the PASOK chief and shouted slogans against the party’s political alliance with New Democracy.
“We must look into the causes that led us to rule together with the right,” Venizelos told the crowd which didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t explain why he agreed to join the opposition in a coalition.
Officials close to Venizelos criticized the organizers of the event, most prominently PASOK veteran Filippos Petsalnikos, for failing to subdue the hecklers.
MP Dimitris Karydis urged Papandreou to condemn the reactions. “Venizelos proved that he is pro-unity, that he wants a big and united PASOK… It’s others that need to live up to their responsibilities,” he said.
During his address, Papandreou said that PASOK folk were “eager for a new beginning.” Sources close to the former premier denied to Kathimerini that his statement hinted at the creation of a new party.
PASOK’s official Facebook account did a counter-attack on Papandreou and his allies.
“The supporters (indignant citizens – hit squads) of the man whose party won the 2009 elections with 44 percent of the vote and then succeeded (!) after two years as PM in forging a coalition with the Right of [Antonis] Samaras and [Giorgos] Karatzaferis yesterday urged [Papandreou] to return and do away with the Right!… Send in the duty psychiatrist please.”
The post was quickly removed from the party’s account. A statement later said the message did not reflect the party’s official position.
PASOK will officially mark its 40th birthday Sept. 3. Papandreou will be in London and will not attend the event.