Venizelos to stand unopposed for PASOK leadership

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is likely to run unopposed in next Sunday?s contest to elect a new PASOK leader after his most likely rival, former Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutzis, failed to collect the number of signatures needed to run in the race.

Following two days of debate at a congress in Athens, PASOK?s political council announced on Sunday that Papoutsis had not collected the 94 signatures from council members that he needed to meet the requirements for candidates. Venizelos had collected more than 200.

However, the leadership election due to be held on March 18 will still go ahead, the political council said.

Venizelos and Papoutsis put forward their arguments in speeches on Saturday. Venizelos received the backing of several key PASOK figures before and after his address, including Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

In 2004, outgoing PASOK leader George Papandreou also ran unopposed in the race to succeed then Prime Minister Costas Simitis as president of the Socialist party.

In 2007, Papandreou easily defeated Venizelos to retain the PASOK leadership.

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