PASOK hit by dissent or set for renewal?

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s deadline for his PASOK party’s members of Parliament to state in writing by tomorrow whether they wish to stand for re-election has prompted a number of them to say they will not stay in the party. This has raised concern about growing defeatism in the ruling party ahead of elections that must be held by next spring. And opinion polls to be made public next month are believed to show that PASOK has not managed to narrow the gap with New Democracy, which has been leading by nearly 8 percent in recent polls. «It is a time of renewal and we want to note that the moves of some colleagues provide the opportunity for greater renewal on our electoral lists, something which society demands of us,» government spokesman Christos Protopapas said, making a virtue of necessity. Yesterday Phoevos Ioannides, a veteran PASOK MP, hinted that today he will say that he will not stand for re-election with the party. Another four or five are expected to follow suit, and others who will express their desire to run with PASOK again are believed to be preparing to tell Simitis that they are unhappy with the way the party is going. This would worsen the climate in PASOK and is one of the causes of rumors that the party could decide on a change of leadership. This is denied by Simitis’s office, with sources saying he is watching developments coolly. The sources say the MPs who are not standing for re-election understand that they would not have won anyhow. On Friday, PASOK’s Central Committee is to discuss candidates and decide on electoral lists. The number of MPs who, for one reason or other, have said that they will not stand for re-election with PASOK now stands at 14 if Ioannides is included.