Venizelos, Simitis take digs at Papandreou during PASOK's 40th anniversary event

In a speech at an event on Wednesday night in Athens marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of PASOK, both the party’s leader Evangelos Venizelos and former Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis appealed to party patriotism to revive PASOK’s flagging fortunes and took turns at making indirect digs at George Papandreou, who was not at the event.

Although Venizelos noted in his opening remarks that Papandreou was “here in spirit,” much of his remaining speech was peppered with less-than-complimentary references to the former premier and ex-PASOK leader.

Declaring that those responsible for extracting the country from the crisis are now “feigning ignorance and attempting to shift the blame to others,” Venizelos was widely understood to be referring to his predecessor. In another jab, Venizelos indicated that it was not he that was first to reach out to the right as the initial overture was made in June 2012, a reference to Papandreou’s attempt to approach then opposition leader Antonis Samaras to bolster his beleaguered Socialist administration.

Venizelos indicated that PASOK had endured the political fallout of the past four years of the country’s economic crisis. The party is still standing, he said. “It’s shaken, mutilated, but it’s standing,” he said, adding that PASOK still had the ability to become the country’s “third pole” or third political force.

Simitis, for his part, made several digs against Papandreou but also against the current government as regards its stance vis-a-vis the troika. Referring to Papandreou’s now-infamous pledge ahead of the 2009 elections that brought PASOK back to power, Simitis remarked, “Let us not forget the cost for our country of that phrase ‘There is money.’” Simitis also indirectly offered his support for Venizelos, who was jeered by Papandreou supporters at an event organized by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation earlier this week, noting that “some prefer to remain stuck in the past.” As for PASOK’s prospects, Simitis said it must first prove “that we are not just a caravan of old-school politicians seeking a new oasis as we were chased away from our old one.”