NEWS

Venizelos gathers over 97 percent of the vote

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is expected to meet with Greece’s premier on Monday to tender his resignation from the post following his election as PASOK chief on Sunday.

More than 230,000 Socialist party supporters flocked to polling stations across the country on Sunday to cast a vote for Venizelos, 55, who ran unopposed in the leadership race after other contenders stepped down.

With 50.78 percent of the polling stations counted, Venizelos gathered 97.29 percent of the vote or 115,348 votes, party officials said. A 1,434 blank and 697 spoilt ballots were counted.

Venizelos is expected to meet with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias at 12 p.m. before tendering his resignation to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos at 1 p.m. Papademos, leader of Greece’s coalition government, is expected to take over. George Papandreou is set to officially hand over the leadership of the Socialist party at 3 p.m.

In a televised speech delivered shortly after ballots closed Sunday evening, Venizelos described the election as ?a successful exercise in political readiness,? and pledged to spearhead ?a collective effort? to lead his party to ?rebirth? and help Greece emerge from a deepening debt crisis.

Acknowledging the ?discontent and bitterness? of austerity-weary Greeks, Venizelos sought to offer a glimmer of hope for the future.?Already our country is at that crucial stage between the crisis and the now-palpable prospects for emerging from it,? he said.

However, Venizelos’s victory was marred by allegations of vote-rigging across the country. Stefanos Tzoumakas, a former PASOK lawmaker who failed to qualify for the in-party race, late Sunday made a statement condemning what he said was an ?unprecedented and extensive election fraud across the country.?

A large number of polling stations, Tzoumakas alleged, did not provide blank ballots or envelopes criticizing organizers for ?a clear violation of confidentiality rules.?