Papandreou banishes Koulouris

PASOK leader George Papandreou yesterday removed veteran Athens MP Kimon Koulouris from his party’s parliamentary group after the former development minister’s outspoken attack on the party leadership and deputy Theodoros Pangalos. Papandreou announced his decision during a meeting of PASOK’s political council yesterday morning and told the high-ranking officials attending the meeting that the disciplinary action against Koulouris sends a clear message that the Socialist leader will not accept any deviation from the party line. Sources said that Papandreou told his aides that the decision «saddened» him but he would repeat the action if he had to. Koulouris launched a stinging attack on Pangalos on Tuesday, following comments the latter made in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini. Pangalos said that the asylum rule at universities should be reformed to allow police to enter campuses. His statement contradicted PASOK’s line to back the existing law. Citing past examples, Koulouris questioned Pangalos’s trustworthiness and his elevated position within the party. He also criticized PASOK’s leadership for putting up with the former foreign minister’s controversial positions. After yesterday’s decision, Kouloris will sit in Parliament as an independent MP. He may be brought back into PASOK’s parliamentary group in the future. Koulouris is the second high-profile MP to be censured by Papandreou in recent months as he seeks to assert his authority over the party ahead of general elections which will take place by next March. Former finance minister Yiannos Papantoniou was expelled from the parliamentary group last August when he criticized PASOK’s opposition to the sale of Emporiki Bank to France’s Credit Agricole. Some influential Socialist MPs greeted yesterday’s decision with unease, as was the case when Papantoniou was sacked. Evangelos Venizelos and Christos Papoutsis raised doubts about whether firing Koulouris was the best course of action.