Papandreou launches party, aims for post-election role

Former Prime Minister George Papandreou launched his new party on Saturday, as current Deputy Prime Minister and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos insisted that his party would play a pivotal role in political developments after the January 25 elections.

Papandreou said the his party would be called the Movement of Democratic Socialists. If the former PASOK leader’s new grouping is able to gain more than 3 percent in the polls in three weeks’ time, he might gain enough seats in Parliament to have a say in the formation of the next government. Crucially, the new party could also have an impact on how PASOK performs.

PASOK MP Filippos Sachinidis, who served as deputy finance minister in Papandreou’s first government, and Giorgos Petalotis, a previous government spokesman, will act as the new party’s media representatives. Other PASOK officials that will support the party are former parliamentary speaker Filippos Petsalnikos and former minister Dimitris Reppas. Thanos Moraitis, Sokratis Xynidis and Simos Kedikoglou are also among the lawmakers that are making the move from PASOK to the Movement of Democratic Socialists. Papandreou’s brother, Nikos, has a key role among the ex-premier’s team of advisers.

The party’s logo is a red rose with a green leaf – a reference to the symbol used by European social democrats and the colors of PASOK, which was founded by Papandreou’s father, Andreas. Sources said that given the time constraints until the January 25 ballot, any candidates standing for election with the new party would have to fund themselves.

Ahead of the party’s launch at the Benaki Museum, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he was deeply saddened by Papandreou’s move and accused him of “trying to break up” PASOK. He said his party was “saddened but determined” to do well in the upcoming elections. Venizelos suggested in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini that PASOK is likely to have a vital role to play after Greeks go to the polls.

“Many people believe that the main issue at stake in these elections is whether they will be won by New Democracy or SYRIZA. Clearly, that is crucial but not as crucial as the issue of how the country will be governed,” Venizelos told Kathimerini, pointing out that if neither party has a parliamentary majority, a coalition will have to be formed.

The deputy prime minister argued that Greece could not afford to go to second elections a month later, as it did in the summer of 2012.

“If the first elections are a mistake, the second ones would be a crime against the economy and the country’s prospects. There cannot be a lack of governance.”

The PASOK leader indicated that he would be willing to enter discussions with SYRIZA to form a government on the basis of an agreed policy program.

“In June 2012 we worked with New Democracy and Democratic Left (DIMAR), while also insisting on the need for SYRIZA to participate as well… the framework continues to be the same,” said Venizelos.