Venizelos to start rallying party base

After formally announcing his candidacy for the leadership of socialist PASOK, in a contest in which he will run unopposed, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is expected to start working from Tuesday on rallying party supporters to cast their votes in the elections on Sunday.

Venizelos, who was in Brussels on Monday for the latest Eurogroup summit, is expected to have a busy week ahead with plans for several public appearances and speeches aimed at winning around the party base and shaping his platform ahead of general elections, likely to take place in late April or early May. A press conference is expected on Thursday while a public address, possibly at a venue outside Athens, is anticipated for Friday.

PASOK sources told Kathimerini that a turnout of between 70,000 and 80,000 voters at Sunday?s leadership election would be regarded as a positive outcome, setting the stage for decent voter numbers at the snap polls.

After the election, sources anticipate changes in key party positions, with the party?s general director, Rovertos Spyropoulos, among those expected to go.

Meanwhile, as Venizelos plans changes at the head of PASOK, a stalwart cadre heralded a new movement within the party. Alternate Defense Minister Yiannis Ragousis, who last year joined two other ministers in pushing for bolder reforms, on Monday announced the creation of a ?reformist force for renewal and the restructuring of the political system.?Ragousis?s proposals include the abolition of permanent status for civil servants who score badly on evaluations, the reduction of the number of MPs in Greece?s Parliament by a third to 200, and the revocation of a law granting deputies immunity from prosecution.

The minister?s move is widely regarded as an attempt to secure his re-election in his Athens constituency in the upcoming elections.

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