NEWS

After congress, PASOK meets to plot new course

A long period of political uncertainty in the government camp is expected to come to an end this week as the ruling PASOK party’s new Central Committee meets today to elect a new Executive Bureau and a new general-secretary, following the early congress that ended last Sunday. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, his hand strengthened by a strong vote re-electing him as party leader, is expected to announce a Cabinet reshuffle tomorrow. In June, Simitis had threatened the members of the Executive Bureau that he would resign unless they agreed to his call to move the 6th Congress – which had been slated for March – to October, six months earlier. At the time, his government was reeling in the face of opposition from unions, other parties and critics within PASOK over unpopular proposals for social security reforms. With the international crisis taking people’s minds off such domestic problems, Simitis emerged triumphant from this make-or-break congress last Sunday, calling it a new start that will take us forward in achieving our aims, fulfilling the commitments stemming from the popular mandate of (the elections of) 2000. With his reformist camp controlling 116 of the Central Committee’s 180 seats, and with a ratio of eight to three in his favor on the 11-member Executive Bureau, Simitis has a new mandate within the party to carry out his policies without the excuse of meeting stiff resistance from dissenters. His aides have made clear that he is not consulting with senior party members over tomorrow’s reshuffle. Outgoing Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis is certain to be elected general-secretary of the party, opening the way for a reshuffle that will involve senior ministers as well, unlike previous ones under Simitis. Laliotis was the top vote-winner in the election of Central Committee members and is likely to get the backing of both the reformists and the dissenters of the Old PASOK camp who would like to see the party return to its free-spending ways in order to connect with its grassroots supporters. Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos will hold one of these three seats in the party’s senior organ for day-to-day decisions. At the congress he challenged Simitis to the extent of saying that the party would give no one a blank check but then he backed down by not providing an alternative to Simitis’s policies. Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, both of whom have been seen to be representing Greece well at a difficult time, are considered certain to stay where they are. Laliotis as general-secretary has made clear that he will pursue confrontation with the conservative New Democracy opposition party. Over the last week he repeatedly accused leading conservatives of corruption, drawing a furious reaction from the opposition party. – Newly elected PASOK Executive Bureau to meet.