NEWS

Party heavies leaning on Papandreou

A possible heavy defeat for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) at the European Parliament election on June 13, as forecast by polls, could pave the way for a challenge to party leader George Papandreou by disgruntled party heavyweights. No one, even inside PASOK, expects a win over conservative New Democracy (ND), which won a national election on March 7 to dislodge the Socialists from power for the first time since 1993. However, a widening of the national election margin of 4.82 percentage points (45.37 percent to 40.55 percent), would be seen as a failure on Papandreou’s part to make an impact. According to the latest V-PRC phone poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday for Kathimerini, 42 percent of the 1,200 respondents said they would vote for ND, 34 percent for PASOK, 7 percent for the Communist Party and 3.5 percent for the Left Coalition. Compared to a similar poll held the previous week, ND retains its 8 percent lead. For the time being, opposition to Papandreou within PASOK is confined to his lack of consultation with party heavyweights. Criticism increased after Papandreou unveiled a European election list in which young people predominate and only one widely known PASOK figure, former Minister Nikos Sifounakis, was included. Papandreou’s critics include former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whom Papandreou appointed to lead the Euro-election campaign but failed to inform in advance of the list. Venizelos vented his frustration on Wednesday to MP Maria Damanaki, a close Papandreou ally: «What sort of campaign leader am I when I am not invited to meetings and only get told about decisions?» he said. Asked yesterday if he would seek PASOK’s leadership, Venizelos replied: «I don’t know… If the party and the country needs me, yes.» «There is certainly a lack of democracy within PASOK,» party elder Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday. Yesterday, Papandreou affirmed in a TV interview that he wants to radically transform his party and purge it of «phenomena of excessive self-promotion and petty intrigue.» «We must debate, but not whine,» he added.