Simitis rocks PASOK to its roots

Making good on his promise to shake up his party and government as soon as Greece’s term as EU president ended, Prime Minister Costas Simitis surprised even the most expectant observers when he called for the resignations of all 12 members of his PASOK party’s Executive Bureau – including that of General Secretary Costas Laliotis. Simitis’s proposal that Executive Bureau members should not serve in the Cabinet at the same time was also accepted. The party’s 176-member Central Committee is to meet today to elect the new Executive Bureau and the new general secretary. Laliotis will hand in his resignation to the Central Committee and will also explain why he did not accept Simitis’s proposal that he join the government. Laliotis’s departure is the most dramatic development in PASOK since Simitis won the backing of the party to be both prime minister and party leader at a dramatic congress in June 1996 just days after PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou died. Laliotis, a mighty force in the party since its creation in 1974, had been close to Papandreou and was not seen as a natural ally for Simitis and his reformist camp. But his help had been decisive in gaining Simitis’s election as party leader. Laliotis has also been credited with party electoral victories since PASOK first came to power in 1981. He said yesterday that he would not seek re-election to Parliament in the next elections. Simitis, speaking to reporters after the meeting at party headquarters on Harilaou Trikoupi Street, spoke of the need for a shake-up in order to improve PASOK’s chances of winning elections next spring. «We agreed that because of the situation that has developed today, it is imperative that the Central Committee elect a new Executive Bureau and not just fill the positions of ministers who are leaving,» because of the incompatibility of the two posts, he said. «I called on the general secretary of the Central Committee to tender his resignation and strengthen the government. I considered and still consider that his participation in the government can help present its work better and help achieve better contact with social groups,» Simitis said. «Comrade Laliotis told me that he did not wish to join the government,» he added. «I want to stress that I respect his work as general secretary of the Central Committee.» Simitis is expected to announce his Cabinet reshuffle on Monday.

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