PASOK tries to show unity after MP departures

Still reeling from the departure of seven of its MPs who broke from the party line in a vote on a crucial austerity package earlier this week, PASOK officials sought to project optimism ahead of Sunday?s vote on the 2013 budget and to ward off pressure for a party conference earlier than February as scheduled.

Sources in the party said that a speech by PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos in Parliament, ahead of Wednesday?s vote, signaled a ?new beginning? for the party and its remaining 26 MPs. The departure of the lawmakers who took a negative position against the austerity package could end up yielding some benefit, the same sources said, noting that the party needed a single, unified approach. The general sense in PASOK is that the departing lawmakers are not part of a like-minded bloc that could seek to form a new party.

Some in the main left-wing opposition party SYRIZA, however, saw things differently. SYRIZA MP Dimitris Papadimoulis told Vima FM radio station that it was quite possible some of the PASOK defectors would gravitate to SYRIZA.

Meanwhile there was some upheaval on Friday in Democratic Left, the smallest party in the coalition, after Deputy Health Minister Fotini Skopouli expressed objection to a huge increase in the cost of patients being admitted to public hospitals, to 25 euros from 2. Her comments to Mega TV channel came after two Democratic Left MPs broke from the party line in Wednesday?s vote.