PASOK faces fresh woes as staff protest

In an unprecedented move, a crowd of angry PASOK employees on Wednesday blocked the entrance to the party headquarters in central Athens to demand four months in unpaid wages, drawing attention to PASOK?s dire finances as its cadres prepare for a leadership contest next week amid plummeting public support.

Dozens of employees blocked the entrance to the building on Ippocratous Street for an hour in a type of protest virtually never held by any members of the two main political parties and more in keeping with leftist groups.

The protest reignited debate about the debts of the Socialist party, estimated at 120 million euros. PASOK has also borrowed against its future state funding.

Last month PASOK leader George Papandreou met with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, in the presence of Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos, to discuss the party?s debt problem but they failed to agree on how to solve it, sources said.

Employees of conservative New Democracy, which is some 132 million euros in debt, have lodged similar complaints about outstanding wages. Sources said, however, that progress has been made in paying staff their dues.

Both parties are said to be pressing the Finance Ministry for funding as their debts grow and their camps gear up for early elections, expected in late April or early May.

PASOK first has a leadership contest to get through.

Venizelos, who is the favorite to replace PASOK leader and former Premier George Papandreou but who has yet to announce his candidacy, has reportedly garnered the support of more than half of the party?s 376-seat political council, gathering more than 200 signatures. Christos Papoutsis, who resigned as citizens? protection minister last month in order to join the race, is said to have collected 94 signatures, making it unlikely that a third candidate will run.

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