Rebel launches PASOK splinter

Two weeks after resigning from the ruling socialist party, without renouncing his seat in Parliament, traditionalist Thessaloniki MP Stelios Papathemelis said yesterday he would set up a new party to speak for underprivileged Greeks. The announcement by Papathemelis, a 65-year-old former minister of education, public order and Macedonia and Thrace a few months before the national elections (officially scheduled for late April or early May) and in the context of PASOK’s dwindling Parliamentary majority incensed the government enough for Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s spokesman to respond with a jibe referring to the MP’s diminutive size. «The people stand by [PASOK] and know what the party has done for this country,» Telemachos Hytiris said. «Everyone should be aware of their own size.» Former PASOK secretary-general Costas Laliotis, who has grown increasingly restive since losing his position in July, said PASOK should stay united. «The party’s fragmentation is not a positive development.» Papathemelis did not say what the new party would be called, or who else would participate in it. His main message was that it would back the underdog, and Greek traditions. «The traditions of our people, Orthodoxy and the total of the Greek values that constitute the identity of the Greeks and guarantee their social cohesion are being downgraded and sacrificed on the altar of a globalized neo-liberalism,» he said in a statement in Thessaloniki. «We will join forces against decline… We want to represent those who have no representation, to defend those who lack defendants,» he said. With Papathemelis’s departure and the eviction last week of another restive Thessaloniki MP, Kyriakos Spyriounis, PASOK now holds 155 out of the 300 seats in Parliament.