Dissent tears at the ranks of PASOK

Dissent was said to be bubbling in the ranks of socialist PASOK on Thursday after six MPs — including former Prime Minister George Papandreou and ex-Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis — voted against a bill paving the way for the government to close down dozens of universities, and party leader Evangelos Venizelos clashed with Chrysochoidis.

The heated exchange with Chrysochoidis came after the ex-minister criticized Venizelos for his reluctance to agree to the implementation of 11. 5 billion euros in budget savings for 2013 and 2014, a stance that some had feared could threaten the cohesion of the fragile coalition government.

The former public order minister reportedly accused the PASOK leader of ?playing public relations games with the 11.6 billion euros in measures that he himself had signed,? referring to Venizelos?s approval of the terms of the country?s second bailout deal in February when he was finance minister.

Venizelos reportedly responded angrily to Chrysochoidis, telling him to ?get lost.?

The heated exchange caused widespread concern in the party, whose support has plummeted over the past two years chiefly due to the previous PASOK government?s austerity drive, with some suggesting that Chrysochoidis should have relinquished his post as spokesman for the party?s parliamentary group and others maintaining that Venizelos should have sacked him for his criticism of the party leader?s policy stance and for voting down the university bill, which was also rejected by former Health Minister Andreas Loverdos.

Sources close to Venizelos spoke of an ?organized attempt to undermine and weaken? the party leader.