A few weeks ahead of elections, and in the middle of a leadership change, the ruling PASOK party was rocked over the weekend by the forced resignation of a deputy minister and the party’s decision to bar him and nine other deputies from running for re-election. The conservative New Democracy party declared that the moves were prompted by its discovery of a scandal. And senior PASOK members, notably chief election strategist Theodoros Pangalos and Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, said the 10 outcasts should have had recourse to a hearing by the party organs. Foreign Minister George Papandreou, however, who is to be elected PASOK’s chairman on February 8, succeeding Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said that although he felt sorry, at a human level, for those implicated, he would not allow any «gray areas» in public life. «We made decisions that were hard but necessary,» he told a party gathering in Preveza, western Greece, yesterday. «And we will make decisions that are necessary for our movement, for public life, for democracy. Because we are building something new,» he said, stressing the theme of renewal on which PASOK is basing its electoral campaign. New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, in the southern Cretan town of Ierapetra on Saturday, said it was his party’s revelation of the controversial amendment that had caused the uproar. And he tried to tie Papandreou to it. «Are the responsible ones just those PASOK deputies?» he asked. «Did their new leader know nothing? And where was the prime minister?» he added. «Who governs this place?» Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas was forced to resign late on Friday when it emerged that he had passed an amendment with the signatures of nine PASOK deputies the previous night, without his superior, Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, knowing. The law allows the Technical Olympic company to build timeshare homes in a forested part of Halkidiki, where Pachtas is elected. Cabinet Secretary Socrates Cosmidis denied New Democracy claims that he had initialled the amendment (which Christodoulakis says he will scrap by passing new legislation). Pachtas and the nine MPs deny any wrongdoing, while some of them say that they were not the ones who signed the amendment, prompting a prosecutor to look into any possible wrongdoing.