NEWS

Venizelos douses talk of party politics

In comments made at the end of a European Union summit in Brussels on Friday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos sought to distance himself from a swirling debate at home regarding a possible challenge to former Premier George Papandreou for the leadership of socialist PASOK.

Venizelos, who challenged Papandreou for the leadership of PASOK in 2007 but lost, said he was ?embarrassed? to discuss party political affairs at a time when Greece should be focused on restoring economic stability and apologized to the Greek people for this distraction. ?We are fighting to keep the country on its feet in very difficult circumstances,? he said.

Venizelos?s comments were interpreted as a jab at fellow cabinet ministers — notably Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis — who are clearly preparing for a leadership contest.

The latest poll by Public Issue for Kathimerini and Skai shows Papandreou seriously trailing opinion polls with only 12 percent approving of him as a party leader.

The most popular party leader, according to the poll, is Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left, with an approval rating of 58 percent, followed by the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, with 39 percent and conservative New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras, with 31 percent.

Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) chief Giorgos Karatzaferis and Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga are next, each with an approval rate of 30 percent. Bakoyannis and Papandreou are last with approval rates of 25 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Speaking from Brussels on Friday, where she was attending a meeting of the European Liberal Party, Bakoyannis stressed the need for political measures for tackling the crisis. Citing the relatively large amount spent by Greece on defense, Bakoyannis called for a unified EU policy on defense and security. Her proposal was reportedly adopted by the party and is to be submitted in the European Parliament.