Venizelos draws battle lines for general elections

In what was essentially the launch of PASOK?s election campaign, the party?s prospective leader, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, accused opponents of Greece?s new bailout, which a new opinion poll showed to be gaining support, of hypocrisy and insisted that the loan deal did not signify ?the end of politics.?

Venizelos held a news conference in Athens to promote his candidacy for the Socialist party?s leadership. The nationwide vote is due to be held on Sunday but Venizelos is the only candidate. He acknowledged that PASOK made mistakes under George Papandreou?s leadership, such as not proceeding fast enough with structural reforms, and was forced to take across-the-board fiscal measures that led to wages and pensions being severely dented.

Nevertheless, he defended the second loan deal. ?It is not the end of politics, it is not the end of ideology, it is not even the end of the crisis,? he said.

Venizelos criticized New Democracy for being a half-hearted member of the coalition government but his fiercest criticism was reserved for the ?front of hypocrisy on the left and right.?

Both PASOK and New Democracy are threatened by the creation and rise of parties on the right and left. In ND?s case, the threat comes from Independent Greeks, which was formed by conservative rebel Panos Kammenos. For PASOK, the Democratic Left, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the newly formed Social Pact, launched by former PASOK member and Economy Minister Louka Katseli are threats. Venizelos said that parties which oppose or are equivocal about Greece?s new bailout ?have no prospects or future.?

However a new Public Issue poll for Kathimerini showed that the leftist parties and Kammenos?s new grouping are drawing considerable support. The survey indicated that support for New Democracy had dropped from 28 percent in February to 25 percent, largely as a result of the rise of the right-wing, anti-austerity Independent Greeks, who garnered 6.5 percent. The nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) remains on 4 percent, while support for the neo-fascist Chrysi Avgi fell slightly to 3 percent.

Democratic Left is the second most popular party with 15.5 percent, followed by SYRIZA on 12 percent and the Communist Party (KKE) on 11.5 percent. PASOK?s support remained steady at 11 percent. The Ecologist Greens garnered 3.5 percent, which means that if these results were to be repeated in the elections, nine parties would make it into Parliament.

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