ATHENS – PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who took his once-dominant party into oblivion, is quitting but said he won’t leave politics, without elaborating on his plans.
Venizelos, who was Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister while serving Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras in a failed coalition, paid the price for going along with harsh austerity measures, leading Greeks to repudiate the parties in January elections, electing the Radical Left SYRIZA.
“I am leaving my position as president of PASOK. I’m not giving up politics, nor my responsibility, nor my struggle for the country,” he said in a speech to MPs and cadres on June 6, a day before the Congress was set to elect a new leader for PASOK, which finished last among parties entering Parliament.
PASOK fell from 44 percent of the vote in winning the 2009 elections under George Papandreou, who first imposed big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings on orders of international lenders, to 4 percent under Venizelos, who had been his finance minister and stiffed investors with 74 percent losses.
Venizelos said he accepted “in full” the responsibility for PASOK’s dismal showing in January’s general elections but didn’t, saying at the same time he blamed Papandreou, who broke away from the Socialists to form a new party that failed to get into Parliament.
Venizelos said he hoped to see PASOK embrace “all the progressive center ground,”” expressing “all who believe in political liberalism, democracy, Parliamentarianism.”
He also said the party should not go along with just any deal that Tsipras may sign with lenders, saying it should be scrutinized closely first. He didn’t say what his plans are now.
The two front runners in PASOK leadership contest are former ministers Andreas Loverdos and Fofi Gennimata although the party has no standing in the Parliament nor among voters and is essentially over with new polls showing if elections are held again it would not get enough support to stay in the body.