PASOK prepares to elect leader

Greece’s main opposition Socialists are preparing for party elections tomorrow to elect a leader after a demoralizing defeat in September’s general elections. George Papandreou, the son and grandson of two of the country’s most influential postwar prime ministers, is fighting to remain at the helm of the PASOK party, which was founded by his father, Andreas Papandreou. A charismatic politician, the elder Papandreou was best known for his fiery anti-US rhetoric and his public affair with an air hostess half his age, whom he later married. The party has been consumed by internal bickering after gaining just 38.1 percent in September’s general elections, its worst showing in 26 years. Papandreou’s main opponent is Evangelos Venizelos, an ambitious constitutional expert and 14-year veteran of Socialist cabinets. Former party secretary Costas Skandalidis is also running as a candidate. The latest polls show Papandreou with a strong lead among PASOK voters. Sources said Papandreou is seeking to win tomorrow’s ballot by gaining more than 60 percent of votes in order to avoid further leadership challenges. Around 970,000 card-carrying PASOK members and supporters are expected to vote at ballot stations around the country. The vote is open to anyone who registers as a supporter or »friend». Candidates need to garner over 50 percent of votes to win tomorrow. If necessary, a runoff round will be held on November 18.