Political rumblings sound in old and new parties

As the leaders of the two main parties in the coalition government attempt to rally their MPs ahead of looming elections, at least two new political formations have emerged.

The political council of socialist PASOK confirmed on Friday that a long-awaited leadership contest would be held on March 18 and would be open to party members and supporters. Already several prominent political figures including former Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis have stated outright that they will challenge PASOK leader and former Premier George Papandreou while Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is the favorite to win the contest.

Meanwhile Haris Kastanidis, a former PASOK minister who was expelled from the parliamentary group for voting against the second debt deal for Greece last month, announced on Friday that he would be setting up his own party, which is expected to include several other former PASOK MPs expelled for the same reason.

Kastanidis?s move comes a few days after the announcement of Panayiotis Psomiadis, the suspended regional governor of Thessaloniki, to set up his own right-wing party under the name Network for Patriotic Awakening.

Psomiadis, a member of conservative New Democracy, was supported by the party?s leader Antonis Samaras when he was suspended last summer after allegedly reducing a fine for a Thessaloniki gas station that sold adulterated fuel.

Samaras has publicly struck a hard line vis-a-vis the 21 dissenters dismissed from his party last month though party sources suggest that his stance might change in the countdown to elections.

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