Greek Socialist leader Gennimata dies after long illness

Greek Socialist leader Gennimata dies after long illness

The leader of Greece’s third-largest political party, Fofi Gennimata, has died after being hospitalized for treatment for a long-term illness earlier this month. She was 56.

Gennimata had served as leader of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, since 2015. It was later made part of a center-left umbrella group known as the Movement for Change.

In a written announcement, the state-run Evangelismos hospital in Athens announced Gennimata’s death on Monday.

Following her latest illness, Gennimata had announced that she would not seek re-election as party leader in a December primary.

Seven party members, including former Prime Minister George Papandreou, have declared themselves as candidates.

“We mark the passing of Fofi Gennimata with deep emotion: A brave woman who acted with dignity throughout all the battles in her life,” President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement. “She served in public life with principle and a kindness that we will all miss.”

A political science graduate from the University of Athens, Fotini “Fofi” Gennimata was the daughter of the popular late Socialist politician Giorgos Gennimatas, who as health minister in the 1980s helped create the country’s publicly-run National Health Service (ESY).

Fofi Gennimata had lost both her parents to cancer by age 30 and was herself first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.

In politics, she was first elected to parliament in 2000 with PASOK and later held senior Cabinet positions at the ministries of the interior, health and defense, and also served a four-year term as regional governor of greater Athens.

She took over as leader of PASOK in 2015 after the once-dominant party saw its popularity plummet while the country struggled with drastic spending cuts under successive international bailouts. Despite several efforts to reinvigorate public backing by creating coalition deals with smaller political groups, her party’s support remained in single figures, unable to mount a serious challenge to the newly-popular left-wing SYRIZA party.

Gennimata is survived by her second husband, dentist Andreas Tsounis, two daughters and a son. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

Visiting Saudi Arabia Monday, center-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described Gennimata as a “symbol of courage,” his office adding that he had canceled scheduled domestic trips later in the week. “Her death was unjust and untimely,” Mitsotakis said. “I bid her farewell with respect.” [AP]

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