Pressure mounts for PASOK leader vote

As the political council of PASOK convenes on Friday ahead of a meeting of the national council over the weekend, it is expected that the Socialists? embattled leader and former Prime Minister George Papandreou will agree to step down in a velvet divorce from the party.

Several top PASOK ministers in the coalition government on Thursday continued to argue about the timing of a leadership challenge and how it should be conducted.

Papandreou, who reportedly consulted with several close aides on Thursday, is today expected to lay his cards on the table. According to sources, he will agree to step down as party leader before general elections which are likely to take place in April.

Previously, Papandreou had suggested that he should remain the party?s president and that someone else should be elected to stand as a prime-ministerial candidate in the next elections. It appears, however, that pressure from party stalwarts may have led to him scrapping this idea.

Sources said on Thursday that supporters of Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has not explicitly declared his candidacy but is clearly a contender, would press Papandreou to resign from the parliamentary group immediately, paving the way for the election of a new party leader and candidate for premier.

In a similar vein, 20 PASOK MPs wrote a joint letter on Thursday, appealing for Papandreou to step aside to allow for the immediate appointment of a new party leader in elections in which grassroots members would be allowed to vote.

Separately, Papandreou met with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Thursday for talks that were reportedly dominated by the progress in Greece?s debt swap talks.

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