No surprises in socialists’ electoral lists

The ruling PASOK party’s Central Committee yesterday approved the lists of candidates who will stand for Parliament in the general elections that will be held by early May. Although PASOK officials had cultivated expectations of surprises and exceptional personalities, the candidates announced yesterday did not show outstanding new players nor penetration of other parties. The most dramatic reactions came from some members who felt they had been left off electoral lists unjustly. One was Michalis Neonakis, an MP who was one of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s closest advisers but had to resign from the Executive Bureau in June when it emerged that he had traded more than 64 million euros, or 21.8 billion drachmas (in total turnover over the years 1998-2000) on the bourse. Neonakis, who had been preparing his candidacy in the Rethymnon constituency of Crete, charged he was being made a scapegoat for the fact that many investors lost on the stock exchange. He declared he had traded using his own name while others had hidden behind offshore companies. «I will not be made a scapegoat for the stock exchange,» he said, but in the end did not demand a vote on whether he should be a candidate. There was no indication that Neonakis had broken the law, but the size of his investments had embarrassed PASOK. Another embittered politician from Rethymnon, Yiannis Sbokos, complained he had been left off the electoral lists and that the party general secretary, Michalis Chrysochoidis, had suggested improprieties when he was in charge of defense procurements. «We are not casting blame on anyone, our criterion is electoral victory. If we were unjust to anyone, it was because of political criteria,» Chrysochoidis said. Simitis warned candidates not to bicker. He played down opinion polls showing conservative New Democracy leading PASOK, saying that the result would be decided on the night of the elections. He also charged ND «cannot govern.» With 18 current MPs saying they will not stand for re-election, the 86 percent of candidates announced yesterday shows a renewal rate of 46 percent.