ATHENS – PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos has rejected a request from former leader and one-time Premier George Papandreou for a Congress to set a new path for the floundering party and is moving ahead with plans to create a new center-left movement to be called the Democratic Alignment.
PASOK, which won the 2009 elections under Papandreou with 44 percent of the vote, now is a junior partner in the coalition government led by Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, who made Venizelos Deupty Premier/Foreign Minister after the Socialist chief backed austerity measures antithetical to his party’s principles.
That has driven popular support for PASOK down to 3-6 percent in polls and led Venizelos earlier this year to link with the new Elia, or Olive Tree, movement in European Parliament elections where they fare poorly.
With the once-dominant party on the edge of oblivion and already irrelevant, Venizelos put aside Papandreou’s hopes for a unity gathering and leadership election, saying it was no time for “miserable navel-gazing” that risks fueling “uncertainty and instability,” or could see him deposed.
In a sharply-worded statement, which underscored the tensions between them, PASOK said it would move forward based on decisions from its Congress last year and recent decisions by its political committee.
Papandreou is entitled to express his opinions as a member of the party’s central bodies, the statement noted. But it added a clear warning: “We will not allow anyone to disrupt the framework within which PASOK, the Democratic Alignment, and chiefly the country, are operating.”
Papandreou, in a meeting earlier in the week with Venizelos, said he didn’t want the party’s direction or name changed but he was ignored.
Venizelos then got the backing of another former PASOK premier, Costas Simitis, to create a new center-left party with the Socialists at the center.
In a statement, as Greek politicians rarely appear before reporters or take questions, called the coming new Democratic Alignment “a significant step,” but didn’t explain why as PASOK has already been marginalized by its support for harsh austerity measures demanded by international lenders.
Papandreou is opposed to PASOK, which was founded by his late father, Andreas Papandreou, also a former premier, being incorporated within a broader group but is powerless to do anything about it. Venizelos and Papandreou have long been at odds with each other and Venizelos has blamed his predecessor for the party’s demise.
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