PASOK hammer falls

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday expelled Yiannis Anthopoulos from PASOK’s parliamentary group after the former deputy education minister admitted the previous night that he had forged the signatures of three colleagues on a piece of legislation that has become a great embarrassment to the ruling party in the runup to the March 7 elections. A few hours later, PASOK’s disciplinary committee expelled Anthopoulos from the party itself. Despite Anthopoulos’s admission that he himself added the signatures of three of the eight other PASOK MPs who signed the controversial amendment last Wednesday, it appeared unlikely that the party would back down from its decision to bar from its electoral lists Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pachtas who had introduced the legislation and the nine deputies who voted for it. Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is to be elected to succeed Simitis as party leader on February 8, has been adamant that although it was a painful decision to bar the 10 from running for re-election, it had to be done in order to show that the party would not tolerate any shady dealings. The amendment in question (which has been signed into law by President Costis Stephanopoulos but which the government plans to annul with further legislation) would allow the Technical Olympic construction firm to build what the company calls «469 tourist homes, covering the corresponding part of 11 hectares» at the Porto Carras Hotel complex on the forested Halkidiki peninsula. The company, in a statement yesterday, said that it would take legal action against «lies and slander,» which, according to the statement, included the claim that it was planning to build 5,000 housing units, and that it was involved in stock exchange fraud and bribery. Meanwhile, New Democracy officials revealed that Technical Olympic representatives had sought support from the opposition party but had been told by General Secretary Evangelos Meimarakis that the conservatives would not support them. PASOK officials, however, point out that some ND deputies signed on to the amendment when it was presented to Parliament in a previous session but was not put to the vote. Tonight, Simitis is expected to clash with ND leader Costas Karamanlis on the issue in a parliamentary debate on development and education. Papandreou is to speak in Thessaloniki.

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