PASOK to stand with new group in European elections

Socialist PASOK, the junior partner in the governing coalition with conservative New Democracy, is to stand in European Parliament elections in May with a new center-left movement, officials confirmed Monday.

PASOK, whose fortunes have been battered over the past three years due to public criticism of austerity policies, will stand on a joint ticket with a new center-left grouping, which is known both as the “Initiative of the 58” and as the “Olive Tree,” under the name Progressive Democratic Party, officials said. The joint initiative is to be attempted under the broader umbrella of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the European Parliament.

Democratic Left, which pulled out of the PASOK-New Democracy coalition last June in protest at a decision by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to pull the plug on former state broadcaster ERT, has so far rejected any alliance with the Initiative of the 58.

It is thought that former Interior Minister Tassos Giannitsis will head the list of candidates to stand for election in European Parliament elections, which are to take place on May 25.

Greek local authority elections were expected to be held on the same date. But Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis Monday told Mega TV that the government was thinking of holding the first round of local elections on May 18 and the second, when the control of key cities is likely to be decided, on May 25.

His comments sparked criticism from Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and leftist SYRIZA, which opposed the new proposal, describing it as a “cheap trick” aimed at increasing support for the government at the ballot box.

In a related development Monday, the right-wing anti-bailout party Independent Greeks ousted one MP, Giorgos Davris, leaving it with 17 deputies in the 300-seat House and increasing the number of independent MPs to 15.

The decision, which was taken by party leader Panos Kammenos, after Davris failed to turn up to a session of the party’s central committee over the weekend, makes the ultra-right Golden Dawn the fourth-largest party in Parliament, with 18 deputies.