NEWS

Simitis reformists dominate PASOK

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s aides yesterday were celebrating the clear mandate that he had received from the PASOK party’s 6th Congress on Sunday with his re-election with 71.12 percent of the vote and the fact that members of his reformist camp showed strongly in the election for the party’s new Central Committee. Of the 180 committee members, 116 are clearly reformers while those allied to Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who backed down from challenging Simitis’s platform at the congress, filled 60 positions. Four members of the committee can be considered neutral. In the previous committee 104 were from the reformers’ camp while 72 were allied to Tsochadzopoulos. Simitis told his aides that he will announce a Cabinet reshuffle next week after the Central Committee meets on Monday to elect a new Executive Bureau and to elect outgoing Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis as the party’s new secretary-general. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that all current ministers would be evaluated from the start. Sources close to Simitis say also that the prime minister does not want to slight any senior party members but will not negotiate with anyone over what portfolio he or she will get. Simitis met with his closest aides yesterday and expressed satisfaction with the result of the congress, which he had called six months earlier than scheduled in a make-or-break bid to stifle dissenters in the party who had tried to exploit union and opposition party reactions to proposals for social security reform last spring. In a speech closing the congress on Sunday, Simitis stressed that he saw his strong re-election (he had no rival candidate but improved on his 68 percent showing of the last congress) as approval of his policies and a call to continue with his reforms. Yesterday he said that the challenge was to speed up his government’s work, adding that it would be judged at the end of its four-year mandate (which is in spring 2004). Simitis sees the result of the congress as an end to his party’s navel-gazing and of dissenters’ challenges. In the voting for the Central Committee, Costas Laliotis, who controls a large part of the party machinery, got the most votes: 3,740. He was followed by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who got 3,564 votes and was cheered wildly during his speech at the congress. Papandreou, who is the son of the late party founder, Andreas Papandreou, appeared to be Simitis’s heir. I have never refused to shoulder my responsibilities when PASOK called on me to do so, he said. Next in the voting were Costas Skandalidis (3,173 votes), Tsochadzopoulos (3,135), Evangelos Venizelos (2,830), Michalis Chrysochoidis (2,752), Anna Diamantopoulou (2,692) and Vasso Papandreou (2,645). Aegean incursion