PASOK switch of leadership is imminent

Prime Minister Costas Simitis is expected to meet with Foreign Minister George Papandreou by Tuesday to discuss the timetable for Simitis’s handing over of the reins of the PASOK party and the calling of elections in March. Papandreou is expected to be elected leader of PASOK while Simitis will stay on as prime minister until the elections. The two men are said to be in constant contact and in agreement on the procedure. In recent days a timetable for the change has been proposed, according to which Simitis will call a joint meeting of the Cabinet and PASOK’s Executive Bureau at his office at Maximos Mansion on January 7, where he will announce his decision to resign as leader of the party and call for the start of the succession procedure. Asked to comment on Wednesday, Telemachos Hytiris, a government spokesman, said: «I have nothing to say. On January 7 the prime minister will be in his office.» He said Simitis would be at his country home at Korakohori from today until Monday and that there were no plans for him to meet with Papandreou. The two spoke by telephone on Tuesday, Hytiris said. «George Papandreou assured the prime minister that he supports his choices,» he added. On January 8, PASOK’s Executive Bureau will summon a Central Committee meeting which will call an extraordinary party congress to elect a new leader, most likely on January 24 or 31. Papandreou’s wish to be elected directly by the grassroots membership (about 250,000 members) has been agreed to by Simitis, sources say. But the charter must be amended, as leaders have been elected by delegates up to now. The vote is expected to be held on February 7 and 8, so that the new chairman will be able to present his program to the party’s national congress on February 14. Early elections will then be called for March 14 or 21.

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