Papandreou to show his hand

PASOK leader George Papandreou is due to meet with close aides Thursday before making a final decision on what proposal to make regarding the party leadership when the Socialists? political council convenes on Friday and at the national council over the weekend.

Papandreou had suggested last week that he should remain as the party?s president and that someone else should be elected to stand as a prime-ministerial candidate in the next general elections, which are likely to take place in April.

However, it is thought Papandreou may be ready to abandon this idea in the wake of the negative reaction from party heavyweights who urged him to either stand aside for a leadership contest or state his intention to run.

The uncertainty within PASOK has been compounded by an increasing number of officials declaring an interest in running or the position of party leader. Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis has stated his interest and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou are also expected to vie for the party?s top spot.

Ex-Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis also said this week that he would run if Papandreou did not. When questioned Wednesday, MP Stefanos Tzoumakas did not rule out the possibility of joining the contest.

The timing of any leadership vote will also be important as PASOK does not want the contest to take place before Greece agrees a new bailout with lenders but also wants to give its new leader enough time before the general elections.

Diamantopoulou wrote to Papandreou Wednesday to emphasize this point.

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