Founding congress of ‘Olive Tree’ alliance causes rift in PASOK

A gathering of Greek center-left parties participating in a newly-launched alliance ahead of May’s European Parliament elections has created a major rift in PASOK, the leading force behind the initiative.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Friday reacted to a decision by George Papandreou, a former socialist prime minister and current PASOK MP, to abstain from the founding congress of the “Elia” (Olive Tree) alliance in Athens.

“I regret the absence of those who ought to be here today,” Venizelos told the conference. A number of socialist cadres close to Papandreou also abstained.

In comments made Friday, Papandreou suggested that the current PASOK leadership has not defended the party’s reformist legacy of 2009-2011. He also criticized the Olive Tree initiative as an attempt by PASOK to end its existence as a party.

Apart from undermining efforts to present a show of unity, the tension between the two men now means that Venizelos will have to draw up a candidate list for Euro elections without any of the ex-premier’s allies.

This was not the first setback for the Olive Tree. Late last month, the so-called Initiative of the 58, a collection of center-left figures, abandoned the scheme, which now mainly relies on splinter PASOK parties like the “Pact for a New Greece,” led by Andreas Loverdos, and Ilias Mosialos’s “Dynamic Greece,” as well as on other smaller groupings.