NEWS

Simitis gets PASOK ball rolling

Prime Minister Costas Simitis kept his ministers guessing yesterday when, at a Cabinet meeting devoted to summing up Greece’s EU presidency, he made no mention of his plans for a shakeup in the government and the ruling party. But he set the date for a meeting of PASOK’s Executive Bureau tomorrow, as he is visiting Strasbourg today to brief the European Parliament on Greece’s EU presidency (which ended yesterday). As Simitis has not informed anyone of what he is planning, the meeting of PASOK’s influential Executive Bureau at 11 a.m. tomorrow could hold many surprises as the prime minister will be aiming to overturn a situation in which PASOK has consistently trailed New Democracy by about 8 percent in opinion polls. Simitis’s «radio silence» as some have described it, in a comment on the usual chatter preceding decisions, has given birth to a number of rumors. A strong one yesterday concerned the possibility of Simitis heeding proposals to name Foreign Minister George Papandreou deputy prime minister. Another strong rumor is that Simitis will ask for the resignations of the 12 Executive Bureau members and then call a meeting of the Central Committee in order to elect a new Executive Bureau. Following this, he could reshuffle his Cabinet next week, with Monday given as the most likely date. Some, however, do not rule out a surprise in which Simitis could announce government changes after tomorrow’s Executive Bureau meeting. Simitis spoke by telephone yesterday with PASOK General Secretary Costas Laliotis, but they only set the date and time for tomorrow’s meeting. A senior government and party member said «This is the first time the Executive Bureau meets without the general secretary and its members knowing what’s on the agenda.»