PASOK in no rush to elect its new leader

The process of electing a new PASOK leader will not be sped up, so candidates will put themselves forward at the beginning of March with an election to be held a couple of weeks later, the party?s political council decided Thursday.

Despite some members calling for the vote to take place much sooner, no decision was taken to do so. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos?s statement that parliamentary elections are likely to be held on April 29 or May 5 — a couple of weeks later than previously thought — may have played a part in this.

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos had suggested that the leadership election should take place in ?the next few days? rather than ?the next few weeks.?

Loverdos, however, defended PASOK leader George Papandreou, saying that in the two years of his premiership he had to ?try to solve problems that had built up over 37 years.? The minister was more critical of Papandreou?s advisers and suggested that PASOK had dealt poorly with the economic situation in the first few months after assuming power in October 2009.

Loverdos defended Papandreou over his decision to expel 22 PASOK deputies for failing to vote for the terms of Greece?s new loan agreement on Sunday. The minister referred to those who opposed the new measures as ?forces of populism and demagoguery.?

One of those ousted from the party was former Labor Minister Louka Katseli, who Thursday suggested that she is interested in forming her own party. ?Debate is more necessary than ever,? she said during a press conference.

Katseli repeated her belief that the measures in the new loan agreement would lead Greece to ?an orderly or disorderly default whenever our creditors choose.?