NEWS

Papandreou set for PASOK decision day

PASOK chief George Papandreou underwent minor surgery Tuesday but is expected Wednesday to launch the process that could lead to a major facelift for his beleaguered party through the election of a new leader.

Papandreou, who had a cyst removed, is expected during today?s meeting of PASOK?s political council to officially declare a leadership contest under way and to set a specific timeline leading up to the election date. He is also due to announce whether he will stand for a third term as the party?s president.

The former premier has not yet made any public comments about his intentions but a number of PASOK ministers are said to be ready to block any attempt by Papandreou to delay the process so he can continue as party leader until after the next general elections.

Sources said that Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos are two of those preparing for a showdown if Papandreou remains as vague as he was at the last political council a few days ago.

PASOK MP Mimis Androulakis suggested that Loverdos and Venizelos would be the front-runners in any race to lead PASOK and called for the two ministers to reach a power-sharing agreement similar to the one struck in the UK?s Labour Party between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Another PASOK deputy, Costas Kartalis, called for Papandreou to stand aside. ?It would make things easier if he were not a candidate,? he said.

PASOK?s political council will take place before a crucial cabinet meeting and on the same day that New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is due to address his party?s executive committee. Samaras is expected to outline which austerity measures the conservatives oppose and what alternatives they propose.

ND has already been in talks with the Labor Ministry over planned cuts to supplementary pensions, which the conservatives are not comfortable with.