NEWS

PASOK chief tries to hold party together

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos was on Thursday trying to contain a rebellion within his fragile party, the second largest in the governing coalition, following the departure of a prominent party official and an MP and indications that another five lawmakers were considering voting down an austerity package when it comes to Parliament next week.

Michalis Kassis, an MP for the northwestern city of Ioannina, said he would resign and continue as an independent MP, meaning that the seat cannot be filled by another PASOK lawmaker. A few hours later Marilena Xenogiannakopoulou, a former deputy minister and party secretary, announced she was leaving PASOK, saying the party had become ?a small faction of the center left.?

Kassis?s resignation, which reduces PASOK?s parliamentary group to 32, followed a vehement session between Venizelos and his MPs on Wednesday night when the Socialist chief said that anyone who voted against the austerity package would be thrown out of the party. Apart from Kassis another five MPs ?- Costas Skandalidis, Theodora Tzakri, Markos Bolaris, Theodoros Parastatidis and Yiannis Koutsoukos -- refused to clarify their stance.

Venizelos called Wednesday?s meeting after half his MPs voted against a bill aimed at facilitating privatizations. He was absent from the vote on the bill, which passed narrowly. Venizelos is expected to face a leadership challenge in coming weeks.

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